Rajon Rondo’s importance to the Lakers’ present and future

Rajon Rondo could be the most influential non-LeBron James signing the Los Angeles Lakers made this offseason. After leaving the Boston Celtics, Rondo has made a few stops, and at one point it seemed like his time was up in the NBA before he resurrected his career in New Orleans. In his new role with the Lakers, he’ll be asked to mentor a young Lonzo Ball and also help James carry this team to the playoffs.

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Mentoring young players is something Rondo has done since his Boston days, almost as if he is paying back all the veterans that mentored him during his championship run with the Celtics. During his stint with the Chicago Bulls, the young players raved about his leadership, often working out with them after practice. His basketball IQ is off the charts, and it was on full display last year in the playoffs for New Orleans, when dished out 12.2 assists per game and only 3.7 turnovers.

The Lakers interest in Rajon goes back to 2017 when they considered signing him to mentor Lonzo Ball and the other young players they had on the roster. After just two preseason games, Rondo is already showing his value on the court with 18 total assists against just 6 turnovers.

As the Lakers are looking to push the pace all year, Rondo does a great job of identifying who has the open lane as soon as he gets the ball. In the first clip from the video below, he sees that he has an open diagonal pass to a running Kyle Kuzma. In the next sequence,  he spots Brandon Ingram streaking as soon as he gets the ball from JaVale McGee. In the last one, even when it looks like the fast break opportunity is lost after Nikola Jokic stops Rondo just before half court, at that moment he realizes McGee is open, even before McGee does, and it leads to a layup

Rajon’s vision is amplified in the half court. He does an unbelievable job of reading the defense and finding the open man to make them pay when they’ve overleveraged themselves to a side. As he comes off a McGee pick-and-roll, he sees Paul Millsap coming in from the weakside to take the roll away, leaving Kuzma wide-open in the corner for a three. He does it again when he blows by his defender, spots Millsap coming over from the weak side, and sees Ingram cutting behind. He drops a beautiful bounce pass for a dunk:

The biggest thing that Rondo brings to the table for the Lakers is teaching Ball how to run the team in the half court. Rondo consistently gestures to teammates where exactly they are supposed to be as he sets up the offense. Here is a great example when Rondo posts up. He is directing all his teammates like a traffic cop, getting McGee to set a flare screen for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The ensuing shot is missed, but Rondo is constantly trying to put his teammates in the best position to get open looks; Making the shot is on them.

With Rondo, the Lakers have added another high-IQ playmaker to pair with LeBron. But, more importantly, he can tutor Lonzo on how to run a half-court offense. There is a big difference between running a play, and actually directing everyone into position to make sure the play succeeds. Playing Rondo is like having a coach on the floor: He knows where exactly everyone is supposed to be and isn’t afraid to let them know. After signing LeBron, Rajon Rondo was the most important signing for the Lakers upcoming season and beyond.

Follow me on twitter @MoDakhil_NBA and you can support the Jump Ball, on Patreon – patreon.com/TheJumpBall

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