Headlines surrounding this year’s free agency and trade rumours continue to circulate around superstars LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George. At the heart of the speculation, it appears that the Los Angeles Lakers are constantly mentioned as a team with both the cap space and young talent to possibly lure all three into forming the NBA’s next super team. So where does this leave upcoming restricted free agent Julius Randle?
One of the Lakers’ top performers
While it would be a no-brainer to let Randle walk if the Lakers manage to sign two max stars this summer, the 23-year-old forward will still be one of the most coveted free agents this offseason. Randle made great strides during 2017-18.
Despite coming off the bench for the first 33 games and only averaging about 22 minutes, Randle went on to become one of the Lakers’ top performers once he found himself back in the starting five. Per 36 minutes he averaged a career-high 21.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. For the season overall, Randle put up 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 55.8 per cent field goal shooting which also ranked 16th in the league. He was the team leader in all three categories.
Randle’s points average and field goal percentage were both career-highs. He was nearly unstoppable at the rim where he shot close to 73 per cent and also led the team in win shares with 6.6. Randle was not only one of the team’s most consistent players statistically, but also the most available, seeing as he was the only Laker to play in all 82 games.
He has set himself up for a huge payday going into 2018-19, but he’s obviously the Plan B or even Plan C for the Lakers given the stars they’re expected to target. Randle’s agent, Aaron Mintz was quoted just last month stating, “We still have no indication of where Julius stands among the Lakers’ priorities, or if he is a priority at all.”
With that said, here are some of the potential landing spots for Julius Randle this summer:
Randle has been linked to the Mavericks throughout this past season on more than one occasion. Adrian Wojnarowski reported during the season that the Lakers and Mavs actually held trade discussions to swap Randle for Nerlens Noel. Adding to the speculation, Randle is from the Dallas area which leads one to assume there may be some appeal in returning to play for his hometown team.
In terms of fitness, Randle teaming up with guard Dennis Smith Jr. can form the Mavs’ one-two punch of the future, seeing as both players are yet to reach their full potential. Also, with forward Dirk Nowitzki on the downside of his legendary career, he’d be a perfect mentor figure for Randle to learn from. Expect the Mavs to make a generous offer of their cap space to Julius.
If Randle desires not only a massive payday but also the ability to compete in the playoffs, then the Pacers may just be the perfect fit. Indiana showed lots of promise in 2017-18 by winning 48 games and taking the eventual Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink of elimination in a 7 game first round playoff series. With the emergence of Victor Oladipo and the continuous improvement of Myles Turner, Julius Randle could fit right in and give the Pacers a nice young core to build around. The Pacers will have quite a bit of cap space to work with should Thaddeus Young opt out of the remaining one year and $13.8 million remaining on his contract, as expected.
Los Angeles Lakers
Of course, we still have to look at the Lakers as an option and maybe even the most likely landing spot for Randle should they strike out in the LeBron James and Paul George sweepstakes. The Lakers can match any contract offer made to Randle which instantly gives them the upper hand. They also own Randle’s Bird Rights meaning they can exceed the salary cap in order to resign him, if necessary. Randle has played his whole career with the Lakers so there may be an affinity and slight favouritism towards remaining with the team. While some may believe this offseason would be a failure on Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka if the Lakers fail to sign any of the big names out there, retaining Randle for years to come with their promising young core of talent actually isn’t a bad consolation prize.