Julius Randle is expected to be one of the casualties when the Los Angeles Lakers proceed with their plan to sign two maximum-salaried players in the upcoming offseason. With how he performs this season, most people believe it will be a huge mistake for the Lakers to let Randle go. In late February, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report said that the best answer for the Lakers to sign LeBron James and Paul George while keeping Randle is to move Luol Deng and his lucrative contract.
However, trading the aging small forward won’t be easy. Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka will need to be extremely creative to find takers for Deng. According to Christian Rivas of SB Nation’s Silver Screen And Roll, the Lakers could include the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2018 first-round pick, one of their own future first-round picks, and either Ivica Zubac or Thomas Bryant in any deal involving Deng.
Rivas believes throwing away such assets is only a “small price” if it means keeping a rising superstar like Julius Randle. The 23-year-old power forward continues to improve his performance and show his potential to become one of the best players in the league. In the Lakers’ recent victory over LeBron and the Cavaliers, Randle finished with a career-high 36 points together with 14 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks, and one steal while shooting an outstanding 77.8 percent from the field.
Those numbers made Julius Randle the first Laker with at least 30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists in a single game since Kobe Bryant in 2008. Other Lakers players who posted the same statistics in a single game include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Vlade Divac, and Shaquille O’Neal, according to Lakers Nation.
After undergoing a complete body transformation this summer, Randle’s shown a huge improvement on the defensive end of the floor. This gives fans more reasons to draw comparisons between him and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. Randle’s similarity with Green is one of the major reasons why the Lakers should prioritize bringing him back in the upcoming offseason. Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton is trying to emulate the Warriors’ strategy in which a player like Randle is very much needed.
If the Lakers successfully acquire two superstars while keeping Julius Randle, there is no doubt that the purple and gold will finally become a legitimate title contender next season. As of now, Johnson and Pelinka should start exploring ways to move Luol Deng and the remaining two years on his contract.