But after a disastrous stint with the Mavericks, Rondo settled for just a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Kings last summer.
Now that he’s playing better, how much will Rondo get as unrestricted free agent this offseason?
“I don’t know whether he will quite get the maximum, mostly because we don’t know what the max is going to be,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Sporting News. “But there is going to be a lot of money on the market and only a handful of players who you would really say are max guys. If Rajon were to keep playing the way he’s been playing, if he is not getting the max next year, it’ll be close.”
“It would not surprise me at all if he winds up with a max deal next summer,” another league executive told Sporting News. “Maybe not for five years, but a three-year deal or something like that. But if he stays healthy, I would expect the money to be around max. But let’s see how the year goes.”
Even Rondo’s one-time nemesis, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, is pushing the Rondo-max narrative. Tim Cato of Mavs Moneyball:
A max deal for Rondo seems preposterous. He’s playing well, and the salary-cap skyrocketing will give plenty of teams max cap space.
But he’s not as good as he once was, mainly because his defense has slipped. That used to be one of his primary assets. Plus, he’ll turn 30 this season. Smart teams will pay for what he’ll do on his next contract, not what he has already done.
So why would these executives and Carlisle speak so optimistically of Rondo’s max-contract prospects?
Perhaps, they just see him differently than I do. Or they might have other motives.
Carlisle and Rondo have both tried to downplay their feuds since Rondo left Dallas. They don’t have to work together anymore, so it’s in the best interests of their reputations to make nice. Calling Rondo a “max player” is a harmless way for Carlisle placate the point guard.
I wonder whether the anonymous executives are just trying to con a team into overpaying Rondo, who has the type of production – league lead in assists per game and triple-doubles – that looks great on paper. Most teams probably wouldn’t fall for that, but I can’t rule out the Kings, whose front office is run by the inexperienced Vlade Divac. Remember, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported in June:
Divac is largely unfamiliar with the collective bargaining and salary-cap rules, causing him to struggle with grasping the machinations of negotiating and completing deals.
A year later, Divac should have a better handle of CBA rules and how to handle Rondo’s free agency. But other factors will come into play.
The Kings have put their eggs in DeMarcus Cousins‘ basket, and he loves having Rondo around. If a max contract for Rondo keeps Cousins happy, Sacramento might just do it – especially with the “knowledge” that a couple other teams view Rondo similarly.