When the Chicago Bulls traded away Derrick Rose, his ideal replacement would be a point guard who can space the floor, play some decent defense, and also be able to be comfortable with Jimmy Butler being the main guy on offense. When they signed Rajon Rondo later that offseason, they checked off the last box off that list and completely overlooked the first two.
It’s safe to say that Rondo hasn’t been a plus when on the floor for the Chicago Bulls. Especially on the defensive end. While Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade can carry Chicago on that end, they can’t always save a defensive possession when Rondo decides not to close out on the three point line or just stops paying attention. Opponents offensive rating (ORtg) when Rondo is on the court is 109.9 compared to 98.1 when he is sitting on the bench [all stats before Lakers game -yfbb]. It has already gotten to the point where the Bulls have to do something about Rondo’s minutes. Fred Hoiberg is still giving him minutes in the 4th quarter and it is hurting the Bulls down the stretch and could haunt them in the future if they don’t stop this trend as pointed out by Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver.
For what it’s worth, Chicago’s loss in L.A. was an especially competitive game for November, one that ended in controversy and saw Hoiberg earn his first career ejection. While it might be going too far to call any game this early a “playoff preview,” the loss was a reminder of how costly Rondo’s presence will be on the postseason stage, once defenses are scheming to completely neglect him and his lapses in awareness go under the microscope.
They honestly can’t trade him. But there are things the Bulls can realistically do this season to counteract this effect.
Play more of the other point guards
Chicago has a plethora of point guards, three backups if you count a healthy Michael Carter-Williams. Isaiah Canaan is showing that he plays hard on defense and spaces out the floor with his shooting, as he showed against the Lakers when he knocked down three shots from deep. Jerian Grant is showing that he has gotten better on defense and even though his offense still needs work (he’s posting an offensive box/plus minus of -1.5), he's showing signs of promise. Who knows, he could be starting for Chicago in the future according to Kellen Becoats of The Step Back:
Grant’s defense against Damian Lillard in that game was superb as well, holding Lillard to 7-22 shooting in a 113-88 win and that could be an indicator of things to come. With a 6-foor-4 frame and solid shooting ability, Grant could develop into Chicago’s long term answer at point guard.
We still have to see about MCW considering he is out with a bone chip in his wrist but he is just another option for Fred Hoiberg to play at the point guard spot.
Point Jimmy or point Wade?
It’s no secret that playing Jimmy Butler at point guard has been talked about before and the same goes for Wade. As per Ben Golliver again:
The most intriguing aspect of this situation is that Hoiberg has Rondo-free options at his disposal. Butler and Wade can function as initiators, and their shared ability to collapse defenses sets up Chicago’s complementary options just as well as a laser from Rondo.
We have seen this happen more and more this season due to Butler being on absolute fire offensively. Wade was doing this for Miami so this is nothing used to him. With both of them being playmakers, Hoiberg is smart for putting the ball into their hands and it does negate Rondo’s lack of shooting while he’s off the court.
There is no exact solution to the problem when it comes to Rajon Rondo. They could bench him but we could see the same toxic situation in Dallas if that happens. If a well respected head coach like Rick Carlisle couldn’t bench Rondo without clashing with him, Hoiberg couldn’t do it. It will be tough but it may be something Chicago might have to do if they don’t want him to become a liability, especially in the playoffs.