The Los Angeles Lakers have been in a rebuilding phase for what has felt like a lifetime at this point. It has been five years since the team has made the playoffs, something that few expected possible given the franchise’s illustrious history.
However, while the Lakers’ futility has not been enjoyable, it has led to the accumulation of a number of talented young players. Julius Randle, who is currently the longest-tenured Laker, was selected with the seventh overall pick in 2014.
Meaning, he has witnessed the bulk of the rebuild and progress up close, if not driven it. Now, with Randle set to hit free agency, there are questions regarding whether or not he will remain in Los Angeles.
While nothing is certain, Randle did tell Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” that he would like to see the rebuild through to fruition:
“That would be really cool. I feel like I’ve been the start of the rebuilding process. I was the first lottery picks when they started getting lottery picks. I mean, yeah, it would be cool. But for me, I can’t really sit and imagine things. You have dreams, you write your goals down, whatever it is. But I just keep my head down and work. I’m so caught up in the moment of where I am now and continuing to get better as a player and person. I don’t sit around like, ‘Man, I wish we were here, blah, blah blah.’ I’m too busy and mentally focused on trying to work to get to that position. I could sit around and goat and laugh and giggle and pop champagne once you win a championship and you get to that position. Until then, I’m too focused and care about the work and process of it.”
There is a sense, however, that Randle could be a realistic target for teams with cap space because the Lakers are determined to chase superstars, which could leave little to no money left over to spend on their own free agents.
Should the Lakers succeed in signing rumored targets Paul George and LeBron James, it would likely mean parting way with Randle. They could sign one max-contract free agent this summer and still manage to re-sign Randle.
But adding two max-level free agents plus retaining Randle, would require the team to shed more salary. The obvious answer to that is Luol Deng, but finding a trade partner for the veteran forward is no easy task.
After a career year this season, Randle has established himself as one of the best young big men in the NBA, but we won’t know until July if he will be sticking around or if someone else will inherit the mantle of longest-tenured Laker.
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