Approximately half an hour before this news broke, we wrote that with the Lakers getting healthier meant that the team was going to be faced with some tough roster decisions if they wanted to keep replacement players like Stanley Johnson or Darren Collison when Rajon Rondo returned from the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Well, it seems like Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was a little bit ahead of us, as the team is reportedly in talks to send Rondo to the Cleveland Cavaliers to open up a roster spot, according to multiple reports:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are in serious talks on a deal to acquire Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. In wake of Ricky Rubio’s season-ending ACL injury, Cleveland has need for backcourt help and is working on the potential move.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 30, 2021
No matching salary needed since Rondo is on a one-year veteran minimum contract. Cleveland would need to open up a roster spot (likely waiving a player).
The trade would open up a roster spot for the Lakers. https://t.co/i3G1UjePdH
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) December 30, 2021
It’s unknown what exactly what the eventual package would be if this deal goes through, but even if it’s just to open up a roster spot and get some sort of second-round pick in exchange (even just a protected, conditional one), it could be beneficial for the Lakers just because of how valuable Johnson has looked as a defensive option on the wing.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that it’s not clear whether the Lakers will take a minimum player back and waive them, or if the Cavaliers will cut a player to make room for Rondo, but either way, “the trade is expected to open up a roster spot for the Lakers.”
Why would the Lakers want to do that? Well, Rondo just hasn’t been that good, and was always going to be one of the names potentially on the chopping block if the Lakers looked for upgrades. On the season, the Lakers have been 10.1 points per 100 possessions better when Rondo is on the bench than they are when he plays, a number that matches the eye test. Playoff Rondo will be a Lakers Legend forever, but nearly 36-year-old Regular Season Rondo is a player this team has much better options than.
The point-guard starved Cavaliers, however, may see Rondo as an update on their current options in the wake of Ricky Rubio’s torn ACL, and if them taking on Rondo allows the Lakers to keep a player who has been more helpful to them — and, frankly, just fits better — like Johnson, this could be a win-win move between two teams with a history of working well together on trades (see, the Larry Nance. Jr. and Jordan Clarkson for Isaiah Thomas trade, or the JaVale McGee salary dump).
And with the Lakers needing to clear a roster spot if they want to keep Johnson or Collison past their current 10-day deals, moving on from Rondo — a player who is not in the every-night rotation when the Lakers are whole — just makes some degree of sense, especially if they plan to actually play whichever player they’d sign to his roster spot moving forward. And on the Cavaliers, Rondo could actually have an opportunity to play a consistent role, so this move could be a win for all parties involved should it go through.
We will update this breaking news story with more analysis and reaction as it continues to develop.