The Rajon Rondo situation has been odd, and with no signs it’ll be over soon. At this rate Rondo could find himself out of Chicago via a buyout of his contract. Such a situation would require the Bulls eating the remaining of his $14M salary for this year and $3M that is guaranteed for next year. They can stretch that figure over three additional seasons, but the fact that Chicago would have to pay him at all not to play for them is just another mistake this front office has made.
Trading Rondo instead will be a tricky endeavor. His value is at an all-time low, and it will take a lot of convincing for a team to take on his contract and the player himself. Chicago would likely have to add a sweetener in terms of a pick and/or a young player. If the Bulls choose to rebuild around Jimmy Butler, trading away young players and picks would be contradictory to that process. But if trading Rondo means getting a young player or someone who can contribute in return, it wouldn’t be the worst idea.
One speculative destination for Rondo has been the Phoenix Suns, specifically surrounding their backup point guard Brandon Knight. Like mentioned earlier, a straight swap wouldn’t likely be enough. But the return for Chicago (Knight himself) could be something of value for them.
And for Phoenix, it may be enough to just get out from under Knight’s contract. He is in the second year of his extension, and still under contract till 2020. This is roughly his cap hit for each of the years (via Basketball Reference).
While lengthy, it’s potentially a solid contract given that it was signed before the new CBA raised the cap. But if they swapped Knight for Rondo, Phoenix can just buy out Rondo themselves and get cap space for the upcoming summer, which may be a better option for them than Knight’s given his current role there.
After being traded midway through the 2014-15 season, Brandon Knight enjoyed some success, averaging 16.2 points and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 40.4% from the field. Jeff Hornacek, who was coaching the team when Knight was traded, played him alongside Eric Bledsoe, commonly running two point guard lineups. It maximized the talents of both.
But this year Knight’s production has seemingly fallen off a cliff. His minutes have been reduced from 36 to 22.5. Devin Booker has taken over Knight’s starting job and it seems that the Suns are opting to play rookie Tyler Ulis more. Despite that he is still the 4th highest scorer on the team and offers value off the bench.
What Jimmy Butler needs at the moment is a point-guard who can play off the ball. Someone who can spot up and hit the occasional three when needed or be able to score off cuts to the basket. Knight is not the best three-point shooter but his 35.3% 3-point average is a lot better than any of the Bulls point guards at the moment, and at a higher volume: though he is only attempting around 4 per 36 minutes this year, he was around 7 attempts per 36 minutes in the preceding year and a half. Knight could possibly fit in the “Jimmy + shooters” lineup that Chicago has used (and played well) in the 4th quarter. That’s because he won’t need to take the ball in his hands to be effective, as 52.8% of his makes from three are assisted.
In the above video, after Leandro Barbosa was able to draw in two defenders on the drive, it opened up Knight from three and he knocked it down. With the Bulls having two really good players known for driving in the lane and attracting defenders, it opens kick out opportunities. The more guys Chicago has on the floor to knock down threes, the better.
Other than that, Knight can give some playmaking with his assists and can run an offense from a bench role.
Most of his impact will come on the offensive end so his defense will be the question whenever he is on the floor. Because defensively, Knight is statistically below average, with a career defensive box plus/minus of -1.1. At 6’3, he is an average size for a point guard and his length won’t cause as much of an issue to his man on defense as opposed to someone like Michael Carter-Williams.
The Knight trade for Rondo one is a bizarre one, and it’s quite possible that it won’t happen. Chicago may likely have to give up an asset to possibly move him, but potentially not much of one given his contract. But they could be getting someone who’s still be an ok fit. The Bulls need young guys, and Knight just turned 25 (barely a year older than Jerian Grant a couple months older than MCW) and is a player who can give them some scoring pop to compliment Butler come crunch time.