In a last-second trade deadline acquisition, the Los Angeles Clippers traded Lou Williams back to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Rajon Rondo, or better referred to at times as Playoff Rondo, who had been underwhelming with the Hawks in the first half of the year. However, he has been a huge addition to a Clippers team that needed that moral compass and sense of direction in order to shake off last season’s demons. They may have hit the jackpot in the form of Playoff Rondo, and they are going to get a taste of it come the postseason.
The Los Angeles Clippers Should Be The West Favorites, Especially With Playoff Rondo
LAC goes for 8 in a row tonight vs. PHI at 7:00pm/et on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/sp2wHD0s9N
— NBA (@NBA) April 16, 2021
The Clippers are 7-0 with Rajon Rondo.
They have outscored opponents by 71 points when Rondo in on the floor in that span. pic.twitter.com/cSPXvxi2xq
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 15, 2021
Who Is “Playoff Rondo”?
Rajon Rondo is one of the most decorated point guards in NBA history, and one of the best floor generals with an elite IQ for the game. Once a nightly triple-double threat, the 35-year-old now sees himself in a secondary role, being a leader and voice for the younger guys while elevating their level of play in the most critical moments.
However, it is no surprise that Rondo has had a history of slacking or not going full speed in the regular season, as the two-time NBA champion is at a juncture of his career where he wants to compete for as many championships as possible in the time he has left.
Rondo’s career numbers have been pretty steady for the duration of his career, and Playoff Rondo follows this trend in the postseason as well. However, the eye test is all one needs in order to understand the kind of element that Playoff Rondo is, and the type of zone he taps into that makes him one of the most valuable commodities any organization can have.
While Rondo was not quite in his prime in the Boston Celtics‘ 2008 Championship run, he soon became the team’s most valuable asset, electrifying the crowd with his vision and beautiful passing, locking up LeBron James in critical juncture, and making game-changing hustle plays. Despite initially being a supporting cast member of the Big Three, as time went on, Playoff Rondo was born, and he took the mantle in Boston.
While Rondo was at his peak in Boston, his impact in the postseason took the national spotlight when he left the city and pursued success elsewhere, starting in his matchup against the Celtics as a member of the Chicago Bulls.
In 2017, the eighth seed Chicago Bulls were matched up with the one seed Boston Celtics, who may have overachieved given the lack of superstar talent, but were able to find success as a cohesive unit. The Bulls had more star power in Rondo, Jimmy Butler, and Dwyane Wade, and many thought of them as the favorite in the seven-game series, despite being the eighth seed.
The advantage that Playoff Rondo gives a team was apparent from the get-go, as Chicago instantly stole home-court advantage away from Boston, getting a 2-0 series lead. Unfortunately for Chicago, Rondo went down with a fractured thumb in Game 2, and the Bulls proceeded to lose the next four games. Rondo helped lead an attack that Boston had no answers for, and it was looking like the underdog was going to make quick work of the top seed Celtics. With Playoff Rondo out of the picture, the Bulls looked lost, and Boston capitalized.
New Orleans Pelicans
The following season, Rondo found himself in New Orleans, and back in the playoff picture. Alongside Anthony Davis, Rondo was able to play as a part of one of the most lethal one-two punches in the league, and opponents struggled mightily. Rondo and the Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, as they had no answer for either Rondo nor AD. Unfortunately for New Orleans, they ran into the juggernaut Golden State Warriors in the next round, and it was too overwhelming for the far-less star-studded Pelicans bunch.
Los Angeles Lakers
Frank Vogel says the Lakers will have a tribute to Rajon Rondo during today's game, and praises him as "pivotal" to the team's playoff run.
— TV's Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 20, 2021
In the latest display of excellence from Playoff Rondo, the 2020 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers took the mantle in the ever-unprecedented NBA bubble, and it may not have been possible with Rajon Rondo, in addition to LeBron James and Anthony Davis as well. His efforts were desperately needed in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, despite LA running away with a 4-1 series win. Playoff Rondo dominated the series for LA, looking like the most unstoppable player on a tour that had LeBron, AD, Nikola Jokic, and a red-hot Jamal Murray.
Rondo’s crunch-time defense against the Nuggets helped close out the series, as he was a difference-maker beyond words. His leadership was especially valuable, as his alpha personality was able to mesh with the persona of LeBron James, and the two were able to recognize their shared goal of a championship. After securing his second NBA championship in Los Angeles, Rondo now finds himself on the Lakers’ rival organization, the Los Angeles Clippers, who are getting hot at just the right time.
What Is The Clippers Ceiling With Playoff Rondo?
Very high, it would be. The Western Conference looks a lot more different than fans may have guessed heading into the 2021 season. The Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns own the top two seeds, with the Clippers owning control of the third seed with a 39-19 record. However, it is still anyone’s season to lose in the playoffs, as the Jazz and Suns are yet to prove anything in the postseason when it matters most, and teams like the Nuggets and Lakers are still very much in the fold, despite the injuries obtained by their stars.
The Clippers already look exponentially better and most cohesive than last year, where they lost their focus due to various chemistry issues in the locker room and within the coaching staff. This year, they look more steady and more headstrong, more so since the acquisition of Rondo. Since the deadline trade, the Clippers are 7-1 with the 35-year-old point guard in the fold, and despite coming of the bench for LA, his role on the team cannot be overstated.
As stated before, the Clippers are looking very, very, strong this year, rounding out their roster in certain departments that needed fine-tuning, and no other element of their game needed more enhancement than their egos a season ago. If Playoff Rondo is at his best come playoff time, a ceiling cannot be put on this team, as he will be yet another weapon for teams to scheme for, and one that may not have an answer to stop.