Whether LeBron James likes it or not, he will continuously be linked to the Los Angeles Lakers until he signs a new contract in the offseason. The Lakers are expected to make a strong push to sign James this summer, along with Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Paul George.
James, who could become a free agent if he opts out of the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, does not want to talk about free agency, but he has sent mixed signals about his offseason plans. If the Lakers want to convince James to sign this season, Keith Rivas of LA Sports Hub said that Los Angeles should keep Julius Randle.
Randle will become a restricted free agent this summer. Earlier in the season, most analysts were convinced that the Lakers would let the young power forward go to create cap space for two superstar free agents. However, his recent play could make Los Angeles think twice.
The former Kentucky standout has been on a tear since the All-Star break, averaging 20.7 points to go along with 9.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He has been the best player of the Lakers in the last two months. This is the reason why Rivas believes keeping him will put the Lakers in a better position to land James this summer.
Randle also put on a show in front of James during their 127-113 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday. The fourth-year forward scored a career-high 36 points on 14-for-18 shooting and also added 14 rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks for the Lakers.
James wants to continue winning, and the chance of getting more titles will be the biggest factor in his decision. The current Lakers squad are years away from being a title contender, but adding James and another superstar to the mix could lead to a complete turnaround.
The Lakers will be more attractive to James if they will keep Randle because they will have a deeper roster. The Lakers will have an interesting competition at power forward with Randle and Kyle Kuzma on the roster. Dividing power forward minutes for Randle and Kuzma might be difficult because both players can produce, but it is the kind of problem any team would like to have.
However, the Lakers will have to do some cap tinkering to keep Randle. The Lakers need to free more cap space if they want to sign two superstars and keep the Texas native at the same time, and Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report said last month that it is doable this summer.
Pincus said that the fastest way to create more cap room is to trade Luol Deng, but it is easier said than done. After this season, Deng will still have two more years left in his contract that will pay him $36.8 million. In order to convince teams to take the expensive contract of Deng, the Lakers will have to include future assets.
Pincus said that they can attach the 2018 first-round pick of the Cavaliers or one of their own future first-round picks. Trading a first-round pick might be too costly, but it would be worth the risk because it will give them the chance to sign James and another superstar while also keeping Randle, who could become an All-Star several years from now.