Reports: Cavaliers nearing trade to acquire Rajon Rondo from Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks
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Rajon Rondo has not been the backup point guard the Lakers hoped he would be (they bet on a repeat of bubble Rondo, where he was suddenly a sharpshooter, but that proved to be an aberration).

With Ricky Rubio out for the season after tearing his ACL — plus Colin Sexton tore his meniscus and is out for the year — the Cavaliers need another point guard. They are in talks to trade for Rondo, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and since confirmed by others.

Rondo is currently in COVID protocols and, while the trade could be completed this week, he would not head to Cleveland until he was cleared. Rondo has played in just 18 games for the Lakers, averaging 3.1 points per game and shooting 32.4%, and the Lakers have been 10.1 points per 100 better when he is on the bench this season. Rondo has been in and out of the rotation.

Cleveland hopes to capture some of the chemistry Darius Garland had with Rubio (the Cavs were +16.6 when both were on the court). Rondo, like Rubio, is a high IQ veteran player who understands how to play the game (and isn’t a great outside shooter).

The Lakers will get back in this trade either a protected second-round pick (that likely will never convey) or the draft rights to a draft-and-stash European player who will never come over. That’s because what the Lakers want out of this deal is to free up a roster spot.

It has been an open secret the Lakers have been very happy with the play of 10-day contract player Stanley Johnson, but to keep him (or guard Darren Collison) they needed to open up a roster spot. Technically the Lakers could release a player and just sign Johnson or Collison, but that would involve a severe luxury tax hit — because the Lakers are more than $20 million over the tax line, each dollar spent is really $3.75. To just waive a minimum-salary player and eat that money, paying the tax on that plus the new player coming in, would have cost the Lakers more than $10 million for that one move.

This trade removes the salary of Rondo; the Lakers can slot Johnson in there on a minimum contract, and keep their tax bill in the ballpark of where it is now (which is still more than $45 million).

Johnson has shown his value and fit in the Lakers rotation in just three games, averaging 7.7 points per game and even starting once. Johnson, a SoCal native (he played his high school ball at local powerhouse Mater Dei) has seemed at home and filled a need on a Lakers roster that has not lived up to expectations around LeBron James.