Trade buzz surrounding Los Angeles Lakers big man Julius Randle has been aplenty these past few weeks as the NBA’s trade deadline fast approaches. Randle had been linked to several teams, including the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, and the New York Knicks, and the list seems to be getting bigger and bigger as each day passes.
Randle, 23, would become a restricted free agent at the end of the season with his rookie deal set to expire. There were speculations that the former Kentucky standout would demand a significant salary increase, but the Lakers are said to be unwilling to give in.
Lakers president Magic Johnson has been clear all season that the club will pursue two big-name free agents in the summer, which means they would have to free up as much cap space as they can before that time comes.
The prevailing thought is that the Lakers would have to part ways with one or two of their young assets in order to unload the salaries of some of their “unused” players, particularly that of Luol Deng’s. Randle and Jordan Clarkson’s names are reportedly the ones on the Lakers’ trading block right now.
Deng’s contract costs the Lakers an average of $18 million per season and he is only in the second year of his four-year deal. The 14-year veteran has played just one game for head coach Luke Walton this season, and there are no indications that he has a place in the franchise’s future plans.
A report on FanSided’s Sir Charles in Charge blog said that Deng’s “non-existent production and ridiculous contract have made him almost immovable” at the moment. However, the article also noted that while “his trade value remains well in the negative,” packaging him with “another asset” would make a trade possible.
Basketball Insider’s Steve Kyler said that the Dallas Mavericks could be a “possible destination” for Deng and his massive contract, as long as Randle and a future first-rounder is included in the Lakers’ offer.
The scenario would be similar to that of the Timofey Mozgov trade between the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets last summer. Los Angeles “packed” 2015 second overall pick D’Angelo Russell to the bid, which made the Nets agree, despite Mozgov’s outlandish $64 million contract.