The Sacramento Kings signed Rajon Rondo to a one year, $9.5 million contract this summer. They succeeded in outbidding only themselves, as far as we know. Aside from the trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, this signing has been perhaps the most criticized move of Sacramento's offseason. After all, Rondo was kicked off the Mavericks in the middle of a playoff series. He didn't receive a share of playoff pay, because his teammates voted that he shouldn't receive a cut. It was one of the most incredible rifts to watch unfold. Any defense of the signing begins with the statement "if Rondo can be good again", and that's a huge if. And yet I'm here today to defend the overpaying of Rajon Rondo.
Let's start with the basics, it's never good to overpay a guy if you can avoid it. We know there are times when it can't be avoided and you deal with the reality of the situation. When it because a matter of consistent criticism, as it has with Rondo, is when you overpay a guy that it doesn't seem you needed to overpay. Who else was pursuing Rondo? Who else was going to pay him anything close to $9.5 million?
I don't have answers to these questions other than "somebody, eventually".
Look at the numbers thrown around this summer. Al-Farouq Aminu got $7.5 million per year from the Portland Trailblazers. He's a role player who is very good at his role, but nobody will pretend he has tremendous upside. This was the summer of crazy money before next summer of even crazier money. Rondo wasn't at the top of anybody's wish lists, but agents generally have a clear idea of what their clients might command (JR Smith's agent notwithstanding). They then leverage that knowledge into a good deal.
So if a free agent knows that they are 2nd on a team's wish list, and knows that they could get, say, $7 million per year from a team, the player and their agent can leverage that into a bigger deal with a team who views that player as a top option. And just so you know I'm not making this up as I go, Jared Dudley discussed this exact process in extensive detail on The Lowe Post. Definitely worth your time to listen to.
There were no public suitors for Rondo other than the Kings, but that doesn't mean the Kings bid $9.5 million for the services of a player who would otherwise command $0.
This still leaves the question of whether the Kings overpaid. In my estimation they did. I think $9.5 million is more than what Rondo could have gotten elsewhere. But that doesn't mean it's a bad signing. Again, I'll direct you to a recent episode of The Lowe Post (it's been a must-listen for a while now, but Lowe has had some fantastic guests this summer).
Stan Van Gundy was on the show explaining the difference in team building from a front office view versus a fan or media member view. Paraphrasing, SVG explained that when you're building a team, you'd rather overpay Player A than get a value contract on Player B, so long as you believe Player A is a better player. Patrick Beverley got $6.25 million from the Rockets. At that contract he's a better value than Rondo at $9.5 million, but if the Kings believe Rondo is better and makes the team better, they'd rather overpay.
And finally, we need to look at why the Kings might think Rondo is worth $9.5 million after he failed so spectacularly in Dallas. We turn once more to The Lowe Post, where Mark Cuban explained that he thinks Rondo is a good person, a good player, and an extremely hard worker, but that he was simply a bad fit on the team.
Cuban has always been known for his candor, but this is the owner of a team that gave up significant assets to acquire Rondo, only to end up looking like fools. And yet when you listen to that show, Cuban sings Rondo's praises. The Kings aren't the only ones who think Rondo can still be a good player, even if there weren't other public suitors.
In the end I don't believe Rondo will ever be Boston-title-runs Rondo again. I think $9.5 million will look like an overpay. But I don't believe it's a dramatic overpay, and I'm glad the Kings made the move.