The Sacramento Kings took a $10 million gamble on Rajon Rondo, and it's paying off

Rajon Rondo had one of the most unceremonious endings to a season in recent memory.

After his trade to the Dallas Mavericks turned out to be a disaster, Rondo was sent home from the team in the middle of a first-round playoff series, effectively ending his year.

It was the worst possible timing, as Rondo was about to become a free agent. He didn’t fit a solid Mavs team at all, had problems with the coach, and overall looked like an outdated point guard in today’s pace-and-space NBA.

When Rondo hit free agency, it seemed there was little interest in him. After striking out on free agents they valued more, the Kings and Rondo settled on a one-year, $US9.5 million deal.

13 games into the season, it has looked like one of the smarter signings that nobody saw coming.

Rondo is currently leading the Kings in minutes while averaging 12.6 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, 10.2 assists, and nearly two steals. His 43% shooting, 31% from three, and four turnovers per game leave a little to be desired, but across the board, he’s improved from last season. (His 31% three-point shooting would actually tie his career-best mark).

Rondo already has four triple-doubles this season, and the Kings are 2-2 in those games. He’s beginning to regain his form when he was on the Celtics and consistently led the league in triple-doubles.

Due to the Kings’ record, advanced stats don’t necessarily do Rondo many favours. The Kings offensive rating improves only marginally when he’s on the court, but their defensive rating actually falls, giving him a negative net rating. This happens on 4-9 teams.

However, in games Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins have played together (Cousins has missed five games with an injury), the Kings are 4-4. When the two are on the court together, they have a 4.0 net rating, meaning they’re outscoring other teams.

Much of this is due to Rondo playing in his loose, freestyle fashion of yesteryear.

It’s also notable that thus far, Rondo’s attitude problems haven’t seemed to surface. Amidst the chaos of Cousins and George Karl, seemingly all has been quiet around Rondo, who has a history of being a somewhat contentious personality in the locker room.

Instead, the Kings have gotten near-peak Rondo — the Swiss Army Knife point guard who can dictate a game in few ways other point guards can.

If his play keeps up, and perhaps more importantly, continues to show chemistry with Cousins, it will be interesting to see how much the Kings are willing to shell out to keep him around. Rondo is having his best season in years, and if he keeps it up, he’ll hit free agency as the salary cap explodes. Given that the Kings gave Rondo a shot after a disastrous finish to the season, they may have mutual feelings about a reunion.

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