Rajon Rondo’s time with the Chicago Bulls is near its end, but it doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have a place in the NBA.
The Bulls signed Rondo to a 2-year/$28 million contract for a reason this summer, after seeing him revitalize his career with the Sacramento Kings just a season ago. His main responsibility was feeding and keeping their lone superstar in DeMarcus Cousins happy, which in turn allowed Rondo to lead the league in assists with 11.7 a game.
When he signed in Chicago, it was expected he was going to do the exact same thing with Jimmy Butler. Little did he know, a couple of days later, Dwyane Wade decided to make a return to his hometown of Chicago, completely changing the dynamic of this current Bulls team.
With a starting lineup that doesn’t feature one 3-point shooter, Rondo hasn’t been given the dance floor he thought he would have when he signed with Chicago during the summer. Without space to create, a limited jumper, and Wade playing as a better option to feed Butler, Rondo now finds himself out of coach Fred Hoiberg’s rotation and looking for a trade, or even simply a buyout.
The Bulls are also looking for their own solution to fix their 3-point shooting problems, since they do sit at the bottom of the league in 3-point attempts with 19.9 a game, and 3-point percentage at 30.7 3P%. They’re in a desperate situation as they continue to fall down the Eastern Conference standings, and the best place to turn to for both parties would be the New Orleans Pelicans.
In order for Rondo to create, he needs space. He would get that opportunity by playing for a Pelicans team that has 5 shooters who are converting on at least 36 3P% of their attempts, which doesn’t even include Anthony Davis. The Bulls would be able to try to trade for some of those players, from Langston Galloway to Buddy Hield, in order to create space for their pair of midrange virtuosos in Wade and Butler.
Looking at Rondo’s numbers on the Bulls, without considering his situation wouldn’t be fair. Surrounded by other players that also create spacing problems, he’s been averaging a lowly 7.2 points and 7.1 assists, while shooting a career-low 36.9 FG%, and 32.7 3P% with the Bulls.
Last season with the Kings, he averaged 11.9 points and the aforementioned 11.7 assists, while shooting 45.4 FG% and 36.5 3P%. His 3-point percentage from his time in Sacramento, would make him the best 3-point shooter on this current Bulls team, only behind Bobby Portis who is converting on 42.9 3P% on 0.6 attempts a game off the bench.
He hasn’t been ideal for the Bulls, but what he was able to do last season for the Kings, should give other struggling teams some hope that he may be their answer. He’s a point guard who’s a magician on the court, and can practically be his own system. He’s also a veteran with a loaded pedigree, but his desire to only do things his way haven’t given him the opportunity to continue building on a successful career.
He needs a place that’s already struggling, and would give him the opportunity to be free and create. While it might not be an ideal solution for coach Alvin Gentry, Rondo’s next step, and potentially his last, should be in aiding the lowly Pelicans.
Ever since firing coach Monty Williams, and replacing him with coach Gentry, the Pelicans have gone from an emerging team ready for the playoffs, to one of the biggest laughing stocks in the league. Nothing else has changed, instead they continue to allow Davis’ potential to go unused. It’s a similar situation to the one of the Kings with Cousins, except the Pelicans don’t have the same level of chaos surrounding their franchise.
When Rondo and Cousins shared the court last season, the Kings were at their best; simply because of the production of their All-Star centre next to a point guard who constantly found ways to get him the ball for easy shots. Per 36 minutes with Rondo on the court, Cousins averaged 28.5 points on 46.1 FG% and 34.3 3P%, to go along with 11 free throw attempts and 3.7 turnovers. Without Rondo on the court, Cousins’ numbers dropped to averaging 26 points on 41.5 FG% and 29.3 3P%, to go along with 9.2 free throw attempts and 5 turnovers.
It’s no wonder Boogie even joked around saying that he would “kidnap” Rondo if he tried to leave the Kings in free agency. Unfortunately for the All-Star big man, he did leave, which has ultimately created a situation for the Pelicans to create a steal of their own.
Even though Davis is one of the most versatile players the league has ever seen, he still relies on getting a lot of his shots from his teammates. Of all his made attempts, 65.2% of them have come off assists, with basically their entire offence looking to get him the ball, with him holding the 6th highest usage percentage in the league of 33.4%.
Rondo would be able to feed Davis the ball the same way he did with Boogie, especially considering the different situation he would be in compared to his time in Chicago. The last time he looked comfortable while playing in Sacramento, he had space to create and attack the rim, while finding open shooters, most notably Boogie. He would have the same opportunity with the Pelicans, where he could be an ideal running mate for Davis.
It’s a risky gamble for the Pelicans, since at this point Rondo has a bad reputation and wouldn’t be an ideal veteran presence. He’s had too many problems with coaches, from Doc Rivers, to Rick Carlisle, to George Karl, to be considered a calming presence in a locker room who can help young players find their way in the league. In reality, Rondo is also super competitive, and in result, he is in fact a former Champion with the Boston Celtics.
However, Rondo hasn’t necessarily taken the next step as a player, while he’s also lost his reputation as an elite defender – after making 4 All-Defensive Teams throughout the early stages of his career. His time in the league hasn’t looked bright as of late, but with him being on a 2-year deal, he might in fact be a perfect match for a struggling team in the Pelicans, who need to make a drastic change of their own.
All stats for this article are from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97