The Los Angeles Clippers gambled that Rajon Rondo will provide a bigger impact in the postseason than will the slumping, three-time Sixth Man of the Year. The Clippers acquired Playoff Rondo in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Lou Williams and two second-round draft picks.
Rondo, 35, adds championship experience as a key component to this trade. He won his first title with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Rondo won a title with the LA Lakers last season. He signed with the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason, averaging 3.9 points and 3.5 assists in 15 minutes per game this season as a backup to Trae Young.
Williams, 34, averages 12.1 ppg this season, which is seven points below his career average with the Clippers.
Williams won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2015 and in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019. He returns to the Hawks, where he spent two seasons between 2012 and 2014. Over his 15-year career, he also played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, LA Lakers, and Houston Rockets.
The Atlanta Hawks (22-22) sit in the #7 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks added Williams to bolster their bench during a late-season playoff push. The Hawks are +20000 odds to win the 2021 NBA championship.
The LA Clippers (29-16) hold the #3 seed in the Western Conference. According to a recent update by the Westgate SuperBook, the Clippers are +600 odds to win the championship as the third-highest team on the NBA futures board.
Mr. Sixth Man vs Playoff Rondo
As a star player out of Snellville, Georgia, Williams was heavily recruited by the Georgia Bulldogs. Instead of playing college hoops, Williams went directly to the NBA from high school. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Williams in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft.
In 2012, he led the Sixers in scoring with 14.9 ppg as a bench player, and was the runner up for Sixth Man of the Year. He signed a free-agent deal with the Atlanta Hawks, but blew out his ACL halfway through his first season. The Hawks traded him to the Toronto Raptors in 2014. He averaged 15.5 ppg off the bench and won his first Sixth Man of the Year award. Williams signed with the LA Lakers only to be traded the next season to the Houston Rockets.
In 2017, the Clippers acquired Williams in a blockbuster trade that sent Chris Paul to the Rockets. Williams won the Sixth Man of the Year in each of the next two seasons. Things deteriorated with Williams as soon as Kawhi Leonard arrived.
Williams was among the numerous veterans, including Montrezl Harrell, who didn’t get along with Kawhi and Paul George. They didn’t vibe with Kawhi’s star treatment. Harrell jumped ship in the offseason and signed with the Lakers. Williams stuck around, even though head coach Doc Rivers parted ways with the team.
Under Ty Lue, the Clippers played well enough to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Even so, Williams had one of his worst scoring seasons since his last stint with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013-14. Something was off, and all signs pointed to a distant relationship with Williams and Kawhi/PG-13.
The Clippers dumped an unhappy player in favor of a veteran nicknamed ‘Playoff Rondo’ because he always elevates his game in the postseason. Meanwhile, Williams will get a reboot with the Hawks, who could use a savvy veteran to come off the bench and provide instant scoring in the postseason.