The Hawks are signing Rajon Rondo to a two-year, $15 million contract, the AJC has confirmed.
Rondo, 34, will bring a veteran presence and playoff experience to a young Hawks team trying to qualify for the postseason this year. He also will fill a hole on the Hawks’ roster as a secondary playmaker and ballhandler behind Trae Young. That was one of three major problems the Hawks had to solve entering the 2020 season – improved 3-point percentage (which the Danilo Gallinari signing addresses), improved defense (which the Kris Dunn signing addresses) and preventing the offense from stalling when Young goes to the bench, something the Rondo signing can help with if he gives the second unit a boost.
ESPN first reported the deal.
Last season with the Lakers, Rondo did not have a good regular season, and his defensive skills have regressed. Overall, he tallied 7.1 points and five assists per game, both of which are the lowest marks since he was a rookie, adding three rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game, the smallest amount of playing time he’s gotten in his career.
But, in his 14th season in the NBA, he excelled in the playoffs held in the Orlando bubble and ultimately helped the Lakers to a championship. The Hawks’ young core is still learning how to win, and the vocal leadership of a veteran can help foster that development. However, the team will have to reach the playoffs first before Rondo has the chance to excel in them, and that’s going to involve a huge turnaround, going from where they left things last season (20-47 at the time of the season’s suspension).
Rondo spent the first eight-and-a-half seasons of his career with the Celtics and helped them to a championship in 2008 as their starting point guard. At the peak of his career, Rondo was tallying two-plus steals per game and 11-plus assists per game. He still is a good passer, a trait the Hawks will welcome.
Last season, without Young (who played 35.3 minutes per game) leading the charge, the Hawks’ offense struggled mightily. They converted two-way player Brandon Goodwin to an NBA contract, and Goodwin had some great scoring bursts, but he should probably be in more of a third-guard role. They traded for Jeff Teague, and although he helped with four assists per game, he didn’t quite do enough to fix the problem, either, and is an unrestricted free agent unlikely to return. They began the season thinking Evan Turner could play some backup point guard, but he clearly wasn’t the answer, played sparingly and struggled with injuries.
Kevin Huerter would sometimes slide over to point guard (he had success filling in, but it takes him out of his natural position). To summarize, the Hawks spent all last season searching for a solution at backup point guard, and their second unit rarely got going as a result. They have more depth there, now.
With his passing ability and veteran presence, the Rondo addition could help the Hawks, even if he does not appear to be the player he once was. Typically, veterans at this stage in their careers prefer to join teams that already are contenders, so the move is a little intriguing from that standpoint.
The Hawks will need to get quality minutes from him when Young is off the floor, or their problems regarding a secondary playmaker will continue. If Rondo can consistently contribute, and with Dunn’s defensive prowess covering for Young, who struggles on that side of the court, the Hawks’ backcourt is poised to take a step forward.
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