How the Lakers might navigate losing Rajon Rondo

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 23: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers in action against the Brooklyn Netsat Barclays Center on January 23, 2020 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo emerged from the ashes in the 2020 NBA playoffs and captured his second championship ring. There were doubts all season from outside of the team, and they were fairly reasonable. Rondo’s defensive lapses and lack of jump-shot drove fans crazy. When the stakes were raised, he showed the “swag” that Frank Vogel constantly spoke about at length this season.

Rondo closed the NBA Finals with 19 points on 72.7% shooting, including three of four shots from long range. Playoff Rondo showed up and showed out. Now that he put another run in the books, he’s looking for a raise with the Lakers and Clippers as suitors for next season. It would not be a surprise to see a team like the Brooklyn Nets get in on the pursuit.

If the Lakers end up losing Rajon Rondo, it’d be a blow to their title defense. But fret not, because there are options both in free agency and on the roster. Allow me to guide you on the path if Rondo leaves Los Angeles.

Essentially a rumor, the Lakers could check into the future of Chris Paul. At this point in his career, the future Hall of Famer deserves the chance to make his first NBA Finals appearance. Teaming with LeBron James and Anthony Davis would all but guarantee a trip.

It’s no secret that the Oklahoma City Thunder are moving into a rebuild and looking for picks and prospects. If Paul is moved and picks the Lakers as a destination, the Lakers can technically piece together a package to get it done. It’d involve lots of players and picks, but the deal could get done.

The Lakers could look to mitigate Rajon Rondo’s absence through free agency, a much easier route than discussed above. There are a few names that could probably be had for reasonable prices. They’d be a step down from the experience that Rondo brought to the table, but options nonetheless.

Jeff Teague is a name that’s flown under the radar a bit in this free agency. He spent last season behind Trae Young in his second stint with the Atlanta Hawks. Teague hasn’t been on a competitive team since 2018. I think Teague could provide the Lakers with solid veteran experience as a reserve scorer. He has had some durability concerns including knee and ankle injuries that sidelined for a number of games. Time off could be just what he needed along with an opportunity to contribute to a contender.

D.J. Augustin has transformed himself into a solid backup point guard. What you’re gonna get is a legit scorer in pick and roll, as well as ball security. He finished last season with 10.5 points, 4.6 assists to 1.5 turnovers. Augustin also shot 34.8 percent from three – respectable enough from long range to function off the ball. His size is a concern at 5-11, but the Lakers generally keep enough size on the floor to avoid exposures.

The Lakers could also give larger roles Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker. Both players bring a unique combination of athleticism and defensive tools. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could improve their shooting, a key component of the play off of AD and LeBron.

Caruso has proven that despite his limitations as a shooter, his defense and cutting makes up for this. His chemistry with LeBron is also a big plus. Game six was the first playoff start of Caruso’s career and his insertion to the lineup turned out one of the best defensive performances in NBA Finals history.

THT is an extremely talented player. At age 19, he has a lot to learn about the NBA. What better way to learn than to get into the fire? If the NBA season begins in December, he’s going to be depended on in anticipation of load management by veterans. This means the team will have to work through his inexperience if he’s trusted with a role.

Not many teams have churned out as many productive late draft picks as the Lakers. The 28th pick is right around the sweet spot where we’ve seen players like Larry Nance Jr., Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma make immediate impacts. Who’s to see that the Lakers scouting can’t continue the same trend?

The team has already spoken with Desmond Bane, a 6-6 wing that fits the profile of what the Lakers need, in terms of shooting and play-making. There are also names like Malachi Flynn that appear ready to contribute to an NBA roster right now.

I trust that the Lakers brass has all avenues covered in the event that Rajon Rondo finds a fitting deal. If not, it could be a tad bit different from this season.

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