Despite the cap space they created to be able to land two big-name stars this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers are still expected to make some tough decisions in the upcoming free agency. One of them is whether to retain Julius Randle and give him the deal he deserves and wants, while another is whether to re-sign Isaiah Thomas to a long-term contract.
While achieving all of those goals would be the dream summer scenario for the Lakers, not all of them may realistically happen. According to LA Sports Hub's Jason Reed, keeping Thomas beyond this season might be unlikely because of Randle's contract situation.
What would make it difficult for L.A. is that Thomas and Randle are both playing well for the Lakers this season.
Thomas' compatibility with Lonzo Ball in the team's backcourt has been unexpected while Randle's return to his groove after getting inserted back into the starting lineup is a welcome sight for head coach Luke Walton. Only one of the two may be retained next season if the Lakers succeed in acquiring their two superstars, and letting go of either one would not be easy.
Reed said that "it is hard to imagine" that the Lakers would retain Thomas over Randle as the younger player has more upside than the eight-year veteran, who will turn 30 next year. The reporter noted that Thomas' salary demand is also another reason why the ballclub will choose Randle over him as the two-time NBA All-Star "obviously values himself highly and may simply be chasing the biggest payday this summer."
Another factor that the Lakers could also consider is Thomas' growing reputation of becoming a locker room disruptor. He displayed it during his short time with the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this season, and Walton is reportedly aware of it.
The article noted that Randle is also a better fit with the Lakers than Thomas will ever be. The squad already has Ball as their point guard of the future while Josh Hart is more than able to become his primary backup for years to come. Keeping Thomas would be "like trying to shove a square into a circular hole" while Randle turns the square into a cube, he said.
Reed believes that the Lakers would more likely sign Randle, even though the Dallas Mavericks are rumored to be interested in offering him a deal, while Thomas may get a $10 million to $15 million a year deal with another club this offseason.
However, Walton is reportedly putting Thomas in a "better position to succeed," Lakers Nation reported. Walton had recently praised him for being a "professional" despite the awkward situation he is currently in.
"That's a work in progress, but he's been great. He's been out there, leading on the floor and talking to the guys about where to be with positioning. He hasn't complained at all," the coach said.