During the 2020 offseason, the Atlanta Hawks moved to address their backup point guard woes, signing veteran Rajon Rondo to a two-year contract worth $15 million. While Rondo’s regular season play in recent years did not align with that kind of investment, the 35-year-old excelled in the playoffs for the Los Angeles Lakers — helping the team win a championship — and Rondo’s locker room influence as a mentor was well-chronicled both in the lead up to the agreement and after the Hawks announced his addition. However, Rondo’s play on the court has not been stellar in 2020-21 and, just before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, Travis Schlenk and the Hawks agreed to a deal to send Rondo to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for former Hawks guard Lou Williams, a pair of second round draft picks and cash considerations.
Hawks are trading Rajon Rondo to the Clippers for Lou Williams, source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 25, 2021
Clippers are finalizing a deal to acquire Rajon Rondo from Atlanta for Lou Williams, two second-round picks and cash, sources tell me and @sam_amick.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 25, 2021
Chris Kirschner of The Athletic first reported that the second round picks are in 2023 and 2027. Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times then noted that the 2023 selection arrives via Portland, with the 2027 selection coming from Los Angeles.
Later on Thursday evening, the Hawks announced the acquisition.
“Being able to acquire a respected veteran in Lou Williams, one of the best scorers and playmakers off the bench in league history, and two second-round picks accomplished a couple of the goals we had,” said Hawks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Travis Schlenk. “We are excited to see what Lou can add to our second unit as we try to finish this season strong.”
Rondo is under contract through the 2021-22 season at $7.5 million annually, while Williams is on an expiring $8 million deal. That creates additional flexibility for Atlanta in 2021-22 and, in short, Williams is likely the superior player at this juncture. It is also quite interesting to see the Clippers attaching second-round picks in the deal, and this seems to be a significant value win for Atlanta, even while acknowledging Williams is not a “pure” backup point guard option for Trae Young.
Williams spent two seasons with the Hawks from 2012 through 2014, and he has been with the Clippers for the last four seasons. The former South Gwinnett High School standout is a three-time Sixth Man of the Year award winner. While Williams is in a smaller role for the Clippers this season, he is averaging 12.1 points per game and remains an effective shot creator.
Rondo has appeared in 27 of Atlanta’s 44 games this season, averaging 3.9 points and 3.5 assists in 14.9 minutes per contest. Though he has enjoyed positive flashes, the Hawks have a -6.2 net rating when he is on the court in 402 minutes, and that is the worst single mark for any rotation player on the team. While part of that can certainly be attributed to Rondo playing the vast majority of his minutes without Young, the team’s best player, on the floor, Atlanta’s creation issues when Young leaves the floor are still very much present.
With Williams on board, the Hawks do have another ball-handler and confident shot creator, and that will be an interesting addition, while the Clippers are betting on the return of “Playoff Rondo” as the postseason looms.