The Los Angeles Lakers were able to make a number of additions in free agency without sacrificing much of their young core. The main exception to that was, of course, Julius Randle who signed a two-year contract with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Randle enjoyed the best season of his career this past season and was arguably the Lakers’ best player, especially down the stretch when injuries hurt the team. His contributions were not lost on general manager Rob Pelinka and the rest of the Lakers front office.
“Unbelievable player for us last year. Great young player,” Pelinka said. “We have a philosophy here that when a player has played here and goes on to another team or gets traded, we just want them to thrive and succeed. We wish him the best.”
When it came to Randle, who was a restricted free agent before the Lakers renounced their rights, it was simply a matter of wanting to maintain salary cap flexibility for next summer.
“We did identify going into this offseason time to keep cap flexibility for July 2019, so you can see that the way our roster is constructed, we didn’t do, other than LeBron, we didn’t do multi-year deals because keeping that flexibility is big for us,” Pelinka explained.
The 2019 free agency class figures to offer the Lakers another opportunity to sign a superstar. The likes of Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler headline what should be a stacked open market.
All the Lakers have to do is waive or trade Luol Deng’s contract, which will be expiring next summer and presumably become easier to move, to have enough space for another max-contract player.
Randle ultimately requested to have his rights be renounced in part because of that lack of long-term commitment. While Randle is appreciated for what he did, Pelinka and the rest of the front office have to turn their attention elsewhere.
“Earvin and I made a conscious decision that we’re going to have our focus being on the now. The present. This team,” Pelinka said. “We’re not going to think or talk about July 2019 until it gets closer, but we did make a decision to keep our flexibility.”
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