The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are engaged in something of an arms race heading into next year. The latter team understands that it needs to add some pieces to steal the crown away from former. As a result, multiple reports in recent weeks have confirmed that point guard Rajon Rondo is a big target for the Clippers this offseason.
This week, NBA player-turned-ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins appeared on the Sedano and LZ Show and predicted that Rondo would ultimately end up with the Clippers, while the Lakers would replace him with Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul.
“I think the Lakers are going to land Chris Paul, I think Rondo is going to be with the Clippers and I think y’all gonna lose Playoff Rondo,” Perkins said.
“That’s the guy I think y’all are going to lose. We all know how great of friends LeBron James and Chris Paul are. Chris Paul has been on record this offseason saying that his destinations are the Lakers in L.A. or with New York. And I think he’s going to be a Laker.
“I’m telling you. I can see it happening right now, with him and Sam Presti possibly coming up with a buyout if they can’t come together and get a trade done. I’m like 85% sure Chris Paul will be a Laker next year.”
This is not the first time Paul has been linked to the Lakers in recent months. The 35-year-old’s run with the Thunder this past season speaks for itself. He took a team that most figured was lottery-bound and carried them within a single victory of the second round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs.
As good as Paul is, though – he comes with a steep price tag. He is owed $41.4 million in 2020-21 and $44.2 million in 2021-22, which is clearly a lot for someone who from 2016 to 2019 never missed fewer than 20 outings per year.
A peace offering from Kawhi to Snoop. https://t.co/SzdYcXdUBi
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Rondo, meanwhile, was an absolute stud for the Lakers when it mattered most. Although he didn’t do a ton of note during the regular season, he stepped up big in the playoffs – often emerging as the team’s third most reliable option.
Less than a week after winning his second career NBA Championship, Rondo opted out of his contract with the Lakers to become an unrestricted free agent. His player option was worth $2.7 million, but he will obviously command much more than that on the open market.
Lakers Vice President Rob Pelinka can offer Rondo 105 percent of the league’s average salary, which would be in the $9.8 million range. Due to the terms of Early Bird Rights rules, the contract would have to last two years.
Big year for Paul George. https://t.co/REbRZuUAOC
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If the Lakers paid Rondo that much, they would only have the $5.7 million taxpayer mid-level exception to offer to outside free agents. On the flip side, the Clippers would be able to use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception on Rondo, which would be roughly $9.3 million.
What this entire process will really boil down to is the Lakers and how much they want to invest in Rondo’s new deal. Do they value retaining him over signing additional pieces? Or do they feel like a point guard like Paul or Derrick Rose is out there for them via trade, making Rondo expendable? That’s the big question.
If Perkins is right, the Lakers and Clippers could emerge from the offseason with two very talented veteran point guards. Which team will get the better end of the deal? Time will tell.
A longtime sports reporter, Carlos Garcia has written about some of the biggest and most notable athletic events of the last 5 years. He has been credentialed to cover MLS, NBA and MLB games all over the United States. His work has been published on Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, AOL and the Washington Post.