Despite being the most polarizing player on the Lakers, the return of Rajon Rondo from injury could be the missing catalyst that triggers head coach Frank Vogel to make substantive changes to the Lakers’ starting lineup.
Rondo could not only give the Lakers desperately needed playmaking when LeBron was on the bench but also when playing alongside him to relieve his playmaking load and allow him to focus more on attacking to put up points. In addition to their shooting woes, the Lakers have seen LeBron’s individual scoring decrease significantly as his playmaking responsibilities increased, which Rondo could help alleviate both playing with and without James.
While Rondo’s lack of 3-point shooting gravity is not a great fit as a starter, his elite performances in 3 games this year and 4 playoff games two years ago against the Trail Blazers make a strong case to consider starting him. There’s no question he has the respect, confidence, and trust of head coach Frank Vogel and superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and has shown in the past he’s capable of elevating his performance in the playoffs.
Rondo averaged 7.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 15.6 minutes in the Lakers’ 3 games against Portland while shooting 69.2% from the field, 60.0% from deep, and 100% from the line with 4.7 +/- and 15.3 net rating. In the playoffs against Portland, he averaged 11.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 13.3 assists in 35.4 minutes while shooting 48.7% from the field, 42.9% from deep, and 80.0% from the line with 10.5 +/- and 13.7 net rating.
While Vogel’s likely to stick with his current starting lineup for tonight’s game, there’s a good chance he’ll give Rondo some minutes off the bench to see how he performs and if his playmaking could help when LeBron is out. Vogel may also give Rondo minutes alongside James to see if freeing LeBron from playmaking could give the Lakers a scoring boost by unleashing his offense. If that works, then Vogel might even consider starting Rajon.
Deciding to start Rajon Rondo presents Frank Vogel with several challenges, including how to compensate for his lack of gravity as a 3-point shooter and whether his starting necessitates additional changes to the starting lineup. When I look at the problems with the current starting lineup and who on the roster is playing well, I can’t help but wonder how exciting a new Lakers’ starting lineup of Rondo, Waiters, James, Kuzma, and Davis could be.
The Lakers could spread the floor and play five out. They would have five players on the floor who could not only shoot the three but also put the ball on the floor and attack the basket for easy layups or drive-and-dish threes. While the Lakers could be trading defense for offense, that may be exactly what they need from their starters right now and Rondo, Waiters, and Kuzma should play better overall than Caldwell-Pope, Green, and McGee.
In the end, Rajon Rondo’s return from injury could not come at a better time for the Lakers as it may open the door for Frank Vogel to finally make some substantive long needed changes to the Lakers starting lineup.