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New Orleans Pelicans options after Rajon Rondo agrees to one-year, $9 million contract with Los Angeles Lakers

This one’s out of left field and it stings!

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In a shocking bit of news, Rajon Rondo will not return to the New Orleans Pelicans. Instead, it has been reported that he will be taking his talents to the City of Angels — the Los Angeles Lakers will sign the 32-year-old point guard to a one-year, $9 million dollar contract.

Last night, the Pelicans came to an agreement with Elfrid Payton on a one-year, $2.7 million deal, but it was widely expected that Rondo would still re-sign with New Orleans later in free agency. The plan was for Payton to become one of the best backups in the league, learning from one of the best traditional floor generals in the business.

Welp, scratch that idea.

Earlier today, I surmised that perhaps the Pelicans would use a remainder left over from the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception (subtracting Payton’s dollar amount from the total $8,641,000 available under the exception) to pay Rondo. $6 million dollars isn’t a bad payday for regular Joes, but apparently if any deal in that neighborhood was the only one sitting on the table, Rondo might have felt a tad unappreciated. After making a total of $6.3 million and then enjoying his finest campaign since leaving Boston?

Remember when John Gambadoro, a radio host out of Phoenix, mentioned Rondo was seeking a two-year deal worth approximately $16 million? For those who didn’t believe the rumor, guess that talk was far from any smoke and mirrors!

So where should General Manager Dell Demps turn to now? The team reached a comfortable level of play which was highly successful, with Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and E’Twaun Moore performing as one of the best lineups in the Association around Rondo over the final 28 games of the regular season. Consequently, it’s difficult to imagine Payton — with all of his faults and unfamiliarity with New Orleans players — stepping right in and the team not skipping a few beats.

Also, it’s vital to keep players in their same roles but especially Holiday. Head Coach Alvin Gentry could ask him to pick up the majority of the ball-handling and decision-making duties again, yet lets hope this is a last resort. After watching Holiday blossom and punctuate the first round of the 2018 playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers with several exclamation points, it would be catastrophic if Holiday’s effectiveness is significantly curtailed by a shift in his role.

**Warning: the following list may not be for the faint of heart!**

Point Guard Options

  1. Tyreke Evans. The Pelicans have already been linked to their former player of four seasons. After suffering through several injury-plagued years, Evans had a great rebound campaign with the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists. In the absence of Mike Conley Jr., Evans looked healthy, and moreover, exhibited a great touch from all over the floor, shooting 48.2% from inside the arc, 39.9% from beyond it and 78.5% from the charity stripe. Could Evans stay healthy this time round and also fit well enough in a Chris Finch offense? Moreover, would he accept the full MLE? Others to consider in a lead guard role include Raymond Felton and Jarrett Jack.
  2. Shabazz Napier. The fourth-year guard enjoyed the best season of his career in Portland, averaging 15.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per 36 minutes. While not a true point guard, maybe the coaching staff feels the Pelicans are ready to operate much in the same manner as the Denver Nuggets have for the last couple of seasons — without a true point. Others to consider in this fill-in role could be Devin Harris and Seth Curry.
  3. Ian Clark (if re-signed), Frank Jackson, Tony Carr (if signed). This is the most depressing option simply because it’s highly improbable that these three and Payton are ready to perform at a combined playoff-caliber level. Jackson has yet to register a single minute in the league, Carr was the 51st pick in the 2018 Draft and Clark isn’t a guard one confuses with being a reliable ball distributor.

Keep your fingers crossed. Dell Demps needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat because Rondo’s talents — which fit incredible well in New Orleans — are not readily available on the free agent list.