(J Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com)
Latest Laker: Rajon Rondo
Eight years after a legendary, seven-game clash in the NBA Finals, the Lakers and Rajon Rondo have joined forces, with the point guard signing on for the 2018-19 season.
While much has changed since that battle in 2010, Rondo’s status as one of the league’s top assists generators is still alive.
In fact, the 12-year veteran is coming off a season that saw him rank fourth in the entire NBA in assists (8.2 per game), with only Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and James Harden dropping more.
Rondo has done just about everything when it comes to passing in the NBA. The definition of a pass-first point guard, he is an expert at locating scoring threats, both on fast-breaks and in the half court.
Last season, according to Synergy Sports, he handed out the third-most transition assists in the NBA. He will look to create similar production for a Lakers team that runs a blistering pace similar to New Orleans.
He is also a maestro in the half court, elite at pick-and-rolls, drive-and-kicks, entry passes and everything in between.
Perhaps his most impressive skill is being able to constantly know where all shooters and cutters are located at all times.
Many of his assists stemmed from his ability to slash through the defense, which was also the focal point of his individual scoring.
Rondo averaged only 8.3 points but shot a healthy 46.8 percent from the field.
His 54.4 percent clip when driving to the basket ranked fourth in the NBA, and the Lakers were given a close-up view in March, when he hit them with a crossover into a go-ahead layup.
At 6-foot-1 and 186 pounds, noticing Rondo’s physical gifts requires a look at what’s attached to his shoulders.
With an enormous 6-foot-9 wingspan, he was able to make four All-Defensive Teams during his career, and still serves as a plus defender when locked in.
His freakish hands — which measure 10 inches wide and 9.5 long — are part of what allows him to handle the ball like a yo-yo and throw passes with elite precision.
Like every player, Rondo does come with his limitations, most notably his lack of shooting.
While he was good at hitting pull-up 3-pointers last season, his overall clip from deep was just 33.3 percent. That may be an improvement from the 26.3 percent mark he sported in his first nine seasons, yet it does not do the Lakers many favors in terms of spacing.
Those shooting issues also arise at the foul line, where he hit just 54.3 percent last season.
Still, he is a good finisher at and around the rim, and his overall offensive value lies in his talent for getting other guys to hit shots.
And while he might not believe in the concept of “Playoff Rondo,” there is no doubt that the 32-year-old has stepped his game up in the postseason.
In nine games against Portland and Golden State last year, he averaged 10.3 points, 12.2 assists, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
The Lakers know what they’re getting out of Rondo. He’s a playmaker who rarely loses possession — with a 3.53 assist-to-turnover ratio that ranked sixth — and a seasoned playoff competitor.
Rondo is still one of the craftiest players in the game and an expert at manipulating defenses with head fakes, change-of-pace dribbles and his patented behind-the-back ball fake.
He’s a unique player who thinks the game like few others, whether it’s as flashy as a no-look pass or simple as screening his own man into another defender.
With Lonzo Ball coming off a strong rookie season, Rondo’s role is unclear given that he has been the primary starter every year since he was a sophomore.
Regardless of whether he runs the first or second unit, the addition of this former rival helps solve last year’s issue of a need for added playmaking.
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