The Los Angeles Lakers decided not to give Julius Randle a contract extension, hinting at the possibility that the former seventh overall pick will be traded during the 2017-18 NBA season. After losing the starting role to Larry Nance, Jr., rumors continue to swirl that Randle and the Lakers are “heading for an inevitable divorce.”
Julius Randle served as the Lakers’ starting power forward for the past two seasons. However, the Lakers entered the 2017-18 NBA season with a different look on their lineup when they faced the Los Angeles Clippers. Larry Nance, Jr. started alongside Brook Lopez and Luol Deng in the frontcourt, while Randle came off the bench. To make things worse for the young forward, he only received 17 minutes of playing time in the game where he posted nine points, six rebounds, one assist, and one block.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton explained the reason why he started Nance over Randle. The 37-year-old coach made it clear that his decision is not based on who’s the better player between the two.
“I’ve explained it’s not about whoever being better or playing better,” Walton said, “it’s about what units play well. And Julius was playing really with that second unit, Larry was playing well with the first unit.”
Julius Randle was extremely frustrated coming off the bench, especially when he knows that he can make a big difference in the game. However, it seems like Coach Walton doesn’t trust him enough, unlike when they first met last season, where he viewed Randle as the next Draymond Green. According to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register, the worsening relation between Randle and the Lakers could be “heading for an inevitable divorce.”
“Randle and the Lakers have been drifting apart for years, and now it’s starting to feel like they are heading for an inevitable divorce. If Randle lets things like coming off the bench and delayed contract gratification affect his performance on the court, as it appeared he did in the season opener, he could hasten that process.”
Randle is set to test the free agency market next summer after the Lakers let the deadline pass without giving him a contract extension. Since he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Lakers will only need to match the offer from other teams to bring him back. However, if they successfully sign big names like Paul George and LeBron James, there is a higher possibility that the Lakers will just let Randle walk away in free agency.
Instead of letting him go for nothing, the Lakers could move him before the February deadline. Randle can be included in a package to unload Luol Deng and his expensive contract. The Lakers already made a similar move in the recent offseason. They could do it once again to free enough cap space in preparation for their plan in the summer of 2018.
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