Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle has overcome a rough first three games to start the season to flourish in his new bench role, putting up the most efficient season of his career early on during the 2017-18 campaign.
While playing mostly as a small-ball center off the bench, Randle is averaging 11.5 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 61.4 percent from the field in 18.8 minutes off of the bench. Expand that sample to his per-36 minutes averages and Randle is putting up a stellar 21.9 points and 12 rebounds, demonstrating that he would still likely be the automatic double-double he was during the first two years of his career in which he played if given the minutes.
Playing time has been a problem for Randle, however, because of how many big men the Lakers boast. His role in their future plans hasn’t looked certain either, given that his restricted free agency looms at the end of the season and that the Lakers will need all the cap space they can get in order to fulfill their dreams of signing multiple max free agents.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, it’s for that reason that the team may look to get assets back for Randle soon rather than lose him for nothing (via Real GM):
“One player whose future is very unlikely to continue with the Lakers is Julius Randle,” said Wojnarowski on ESPN. “Rob Pelinka, their general manager, and Magic Johnson, their president, will be faced with this question: Do they look to trade Randle between now and the February trade deadline and get back potentially a first-round draft pick for him, or do they roll the dice and wait until summer when he’s a restricted free agent.”
As well as Randle has played, getting a first round pick for a player teams will have to pay a ton of money for at the end of the season will likely be a tall task for the Lakers front office. It’s not impossible because it only takes one team to value Randle a ton and think he can continue to grow, but getting a first-rounder as good as the one used to select Randle seems unlikely.
That’s not to say the Lakers shouldn’t explore the market for their fourth-year forward. Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t look around and see what was out there, it’s just that such a search also shouldn’t be taken as a certainty they’ll find a deal that’s palatable for both sides.
If they lower their asking price from a first-round pick the chances are better, but at that point, they’d just be giving Randle away considering how well he’s played.
What to do with Randle after this season was always going to loom as a tough question for the front office to answer given his restricted free agency. How much Randle is producing has just made it that much harder.
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