If there were any takeaways (other than the usual ones) from the GarPax press conference that took place last week, it was that Rajon Rondo will likely be back next year. His season in Chicago was fluctuant, really up in the air mid-season when he was benched by Fred Hoiberg in January and all indications pointed to a messy exit. But to Rondo’s credit, he turned around his play when given the chance the very next month. He continued the strong play for the rest of the season and played very well in the first two games of the playoffs before injuring his thumb and missing the rest of the series.
Those stretch of games seemed to be enough to convince GarPax to give Rondo at least one more season in the Windy City. With that in mind, Chicago has to be able to use Rondo correctly in order for this re-signing to work. Rondo has shown at times that if put in the right lineups and scenarios, he can be at least a decent player for the Bulls. Especially given the state of this current Bulls roster at the moment.
The wise thing with Rondo back would be to keep him in the starting lineup. As of right now, Rajon Rondo is Chicago’s best point guard option (yes, I know that’s not saying a whole lot), something we really saw in the playoffs with him out. Jerian Grant couldn’t hit a three to save his life and was getting blown by Isaiah Thomas every time down the court. Cameron Payne didn’t see the court, and let’s not even begin to talk about Michael Carter-Williams. Chicago had to resort to Isaiah Canaan minutes and although they sort of worked, that type of production is not stable at all. It showed in the playoffs the positives that Rondo can bring offensively when he is on his game. Especially when it comes to pushing the ball in transition.
Chicago’s offense in the first two games against Boston were very solid performances and a lot of it was due to the Bulls getting easy baskets at the rim and in transition. Everyone knows that the Bulls can’t shoot, so their best chances to score were in the lane and on the break. Rondo helped in that regard, in pulling down rebounds and pushing the pace to find open guys. He also jumped in the passing lanes for steals that led to baskets on the offensive end.
Rondo Steal Finds Jimmy For 3 pic.twitter.com/1VRdOKvNmO— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) April 19, 2017
In this play, it was a pick and roll between Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder in order to get the latter open and force a switch between Rondo and Dwyane Wade. This type of pick play with IT coming around and setting one for a guy on the wing is something Boston runs often. The play is actually pretty successful but in this scenario, Rondo read it perfectly and got the Bulls out in running. When he got into the half court, Rondo did a good job recognizing that there wasn’t anyone running in the passing lanes so he waited and passed to a trailing Jimmy Butler who knocked down the three.
Rondo was also a key part of the offensive rebound barrage that Chicago used to their advantage against Boston in the opening games. He used his length, and the fact that nobody was paying attention to him offensively, to his advantage. Rondo grabbed 7 offensive rebounds in the first two games, which is very impressive and was 4th on the Bulls team during the entire playoffs.
Above, as soon as Jimmy Butler attempts this three, Rondo immediately turns and heads toward the basket. Both Thomas and Crowder were too busy with Butler’s jumper and Robin Lopez is boxing out Amir Johnson, leaving Rondo a clear path to the basket. Avery Bradley tries to come and take it away from him but arrives just a few seconds late. With Johnson and Bradley out of the way, it’s a simple right handed layup for Rondo. Also props to Lopez for clearing out Johnson to ensure that there was nobody to contest the layup at the rim.
Chicago’s offense struggles mightily in the front court and that even happens when everyone is healthy. The spacing isn’t right all with not many three-point threats and many times a possession ends with a contested jumper. With Rondo trying to at least push the pace in transition on offense, it will help the Bulls get easier baskets and with his offensive rebounding, it will help open up baskets at the rim. At this point, transition baskets and points in the paint is all Chicago has when it comes to offensive support for Jimmy Butler.
Keeping Rondo in the lineup makes sense but it would require some tweaking in other positions. One big change that would have to take place would be moving Wade to the bench. This is a big ‘if’ move, considering how much guts it would take for Hoiberg to try it. It’s not easy forcing a guy who makes 24 million dollars a year to come off the bench but it would be something that would help. The first reason being that it means that the “3 Alphas” will be spending less time on the court together. It’s no secret that having Wade, Rondo, and Butler on the court at the same time doesn’t work. None of them are reliable enough shooters from deep and defenses know that. It forces Chicago to drive the ball into a clustered lane which knows the kick-out options likely won’t make them pay. Instead of Wade, starting a more reliable shooter would be a better option.
Making Wade come off the bench would give some offensive rhythm to the bench unit as well, as they don’t have a guy who can really create his own shot. Off the bench, Wade will find himself being ‘the guy’ on offense that can facilitate for himself and others, the guys who are spot up guys and play off the ball better. Wade still has the ability to get to the basket which will attract defenders and open up shots for the younger guys. He can also play decently off the ball and be a good backdoor cut option every once in a while.
Rajon Rondo clearly isn’t the best player to be running the Bulls offense correctly. That should be given to someone that can shoot the three and be a good defender. It should be an issue that Chicago should certainly look to address in the offseason, but what are the chances they actually do that? Instead, as of right now, Rondo is the Bulls best option. Chicago has to hope that Rondo plays with some motivation this regular season and not just in the playoffs because the Bulls desperately need some point guard.
Whether Bulls fans like it or not, Rondo is likely to be back in uniform come this October. If that is going to be the case, might as well use him to your advantage.