The Lakers will play their first game of the regular season in just a few days by the time this article is posted. Most are excited to see how the Lakers perform with their interesting combination of young and old players who will play impactful minutes. This battle of the generations will be seen in who not only starts but plays more crucial minutes between the point guards, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo.
Lonzo had minor knee surgery this past offseason which has put him behind the curve thus far. Rondo has been there for training camp and has played more preseason games than Lonzo, who has only two games under his belt compared to Rondo’s four. Rondo has impressed the staff and his fellow players with veteran leadership, solid play and displaying sky-high basketball IQ.
Most importantly it’s easy to see Lebron talks him up and loves playing with him on the court due to hisss passing and overall solid decision making. Rondo’s reputation is also incredibly high right now because he is not far removed from being one of the best players for the Pelicans in last year’s playoffs. He had a plus 6.9 net rating in the playoffs last year due to his high level passing, decision making and ability to put pressure on defenses.
Based on his high level of play , it’s easy to conceive why many in the national media expect Rondo to start and play a majority of the crucial minutes with Lebron this coming yeae. Rondo will be incredibly valuable to what the Lakers want to do; however, at this juncture in his career Lonzo might be too talented to keep him out of the starting lineup.
Many will be surprised to know but Lonzo was arguably the best player on the Lakers last year. Lonzo was the top ranked Lakers player in Real Plus-Minus (RPM) and Regularized Adjusted Plus/Minus (RAPM) ranking 90th and 103rd respectively among all NBA players last year. Essentially Lonzo was a top 100 player in the NBA last year in spite of his shooting woes.
This is all informative but one might ask how does Lonzo compare to Rondo? Sure, his numbers look great compared to his fellow Lakers but what about in comparison to a real life basketball savant? As mentioned above, Rondo was excellent in the playoffs but this was not the case throughout the regular season last year. Rondo’s advanced numbers were much less flattering with him ranking 243rd and 602nd in RPM and RAPM respectively.
Now is Rondo that much worse than Lonzo on a game-to-game basis? Not likely, however the numbers provided do show Lonzo is a more reliable player overall at this point in his career. When the numbers show that wide of a discrepancy in players with similar roles then it deserves attention. As intelligent as Rondo is on the court, Lonzo shows approximately the same level of intelligence offensively and would be hard pressed to match Lonzo’s intelligence or production on defense.
Rondo’s older, more experienced and likely Lebron’s preferred starter right now, which does have meaning. Regardless, Lonzo is by far the better player and gives the Lakers a better opportunity to win on a consistent basis. If the Lakers are serious about winning then there is no question Lonzo will play a larger share of minutes than Rondo.