The fate of Julius Randle is one of the biggest wild cards left for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. With Randle entering restricted free agency this summer, the Lakers might not be able to keep him while pursuing two All-Stars.
But Randle has also been a huge part of the team’s success, making it hard to deal him because L.A. doesn’t have a draft pick and is de-incentivized to tank. The Lakers reportedly are looking for an expiring contract and draft picks in exchange for Randle if they were to deal him.
However, giving him up for assets that can’t contribute right away might also make the team look less appealing in the eyes of those free agents because of the decline in the team’s record it would likely lead to.
That noted, Los Angeles might also be unlikely to receive those types of offers in the first place, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN:
“The biggest obstacle is that he’ll be a restricted free agent in the offseason. In talking to teams, they feel that instead of giving up an asset or first-round pick for Randle, they can just go out and sign him. Give him an offer sheet in the summer and not give up an asset. … If [Lakers] keep him, that’s an indication that they’re going to retain him when we get into the summer.”
This is one of the first reports to note the Lakers are anything but unlikely to keep Randle, who the team didn’t get far in extension talks with in October due to them not wanting to make long-term salary commitments. Their clear desire is to pursue two maximum-salaried stars this summer.
In order to do that, the team would have to move on from at least two of the three of Luol Deng, Randle and Jordan Clarkson. They would obviously prefer to get out from under Deng’s contract, but that might not be as simple as detaching themselves from the latter two.
And whether or not they can dump or stretch the contract of the former — which would lower the annual cap hit of Deng’s contract but extend the amount of years its on the Lakers books while getting him off of their roster — will affect how they approach Randle’s free agency.
But while signing two max-caliber stars is the Lakers’ pipe dream, it also might not come true. In that eventuality, the front office very well might decide retaining Randle is their best option in free agency while signing either one or zero players to a max contract.
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