Vaught’s note: Jake Buerger is a 20-year-old junior at the University of Louisville who ran track and cross country at Lexington Catholic High School. His father is WLAP Community Trust Bank Sunday Morning Sports show host. Jake is a bit of a NBA fanatic and this is his reaction to the news regarding UK players in the NBA Monday.
By JAKE BEURGER
My dream of becoming an amateur NBA expert is slowly becoming reality. Last week I got my own segment on Big Blue Insider, and now I’ve been asked by the great Larry Vaught to share my NBA takes with the world! I have offered to work in exchange for Donovan Mitchell shout-outs, but so far no one thinks I’m serious.
My Louisville bias aside, I’m actually going to talk about some UK alumni and where they’ll be playing next fall when the season starts up.
Rajon Rondo signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the LA Lakers, who renounced the rights to their restricted free agent Julius Randle. Randle, not to be outdone, signed a two-year, $18 million deal with Rondo’s former team, the New Orleans Pelicans. This used up all the cap space which the Pelicans had, meaning they didn’t have the money to re-sign Demarcus Cousins, who, in one of the more shocking moves of the offseason, signed a one-year, $5.3 million deal with the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
Rondo put up good numbers for a Pelicans team people were pleasantly surprised by last year. In a make or break year for a team desperately trying to convince Anthony Davis not to leave them in free agency a few years from now, Rondo steadied the backcourt and helped to lead the Pelicans to the playoffs. He averaged 8.3 points and 8.2 assists, not bad for a guy who’s in his early 30s in the NBA.
He’s been signed by the Lakers, who want to put veterans around recent signee Lebron James, who I’m going to try not to talk about because I’m sure you’ve heard his name enough the past couple days. Rondo has apparently been told he’ll push Lonzo Ball for the starting job, and worst-case scenario he’ll be in a similar bench role to the one he had last year in New Orleans.
Lebron, who has been famous for requesting that his team trade draft picks and young players for proven vets, typically doesn’t like to deal with the ups and downs of young players learning how to play in the NBA. This should be good news for Rondo, who’s about as proven as vets come. LA just has to hope he gets along with Lebron and some other guys who have had trouble dealing with their teammates in the past, like Lance Stevenson.
The Lakers also renounced their rights to Julius Randle to get cap space to sign all their recent free agents. Randle, who averaged 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds last season for the Lakers, apparently didn’t have to wait long for other suitors to come along. He was apparently recruited to the Pels by Anthony Davis himself, which is important because Randle has the blessing of the superstar and can be comfortable for a while in New Orleans, which has to be a new feeling for a guy who was constantly on the trade block in LA.
Randle will do for the Pelicans what he did for the Wildcats and what he’s done his whole life: play hard, get rebounds, and get buckets. He has a good midrange game that we saw work really well next to Davis with his old frontcourt buddy Demarcus Cousins. I think Randle will have a great season next to Davis. Look for them both in the playoffs next season.
Speaking of Demarcus, where is he going? Only Golden State, the reigning NBA champs with a world class coach, 2 former MVPs, and 4 current all-stars. Though he’s unfortunately coming off an Achilles tear which happened last season, he couldn’t possibly be in a better rehab situation.
The Warriors won’t *need* Boogie because they’re a championship team without him. But when he’s on the court, he perfectly complements the Warriors’ Big 4, with the ability to shoot from deep, post up when needed, and his handles are so good that he’ll be able to drive into the lane easily with all the space he’s got with the Splash Brothers around him in Steve Kerr’s offense.
I hope he recovers fully and gets back to his own all-star form, because if he does the Warriors might become even more unstoppable.
Shout-out to Larry Vaught for giving me this opportunity! Thanks to the Sunday AM Sports crew who have always encouraged my love of basketball and the NBA in particular. And finally, shout-out to Donovan Mitchell, the REAL rookie of the year!
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All stats from Basketball-Reference. All salaries were reported by ESPN.