Previously thought as a dispensable piece in the Los Angeles Lakers’ grand scheme, Julius Randle has significantly changed that perception with his strong play over the past few months. All of a sudden, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are faced with the possibility of losing a potential All-Star power forward for nothing because of their desire to land two max-level superstars this summer.
ESPN staff writer Ohm Youngmisuk mentioned in his recent article the time when the Lakers squandered the chance of keeping Randle for a price below his current market value. He noted the former Kentucky power forward was frustrated after the Lakers decided not to offer a rookie scale contract extension despite his willingness to give up a considerable amount of money just to stay with the franchise that drafted him seventh overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.
“First, the Lakers did not extend his rookie contract, opting to maintain as much cap flexibility as possible, even if Randle would have been willing to offer a discount to stay a Laker.”
Five months into the 2017-18 NBA season and Randle’s worth has skyrocketed with ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks pegging the forward’s market value at around $12 million to 14 million per year. Depending on the initial salvo of transactions in free agency, Randle could be figured to get a more lucrative deal from one of these four suitors with cap space: Atlanta, Sacramento, Brooklyn, and Dallas.
It’s safe to say that Randle hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He just turned 23 last November and is just starting to learn the nuances of playing defense at a high level. Still, despite Randle’s gaudy numbers as of late (23.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists over eight games in March), the Lakers are expected to act with due diligence when it comes to his case because one wrong move can cost them a chance of landing the likes of LeBron James and Paul George.
As to what Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report has been campaigning for for quite some time, the Lakers must find a way to get rid of Luol Deng’s albatross deal via trade in order to have a solid chance of keeping Randle without compromising their capacity to land two max-level free agents. Of course, moving an overpriced deal worth $18 million per year will always be a tough task, but the Lakers have the assets (Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2018 first-round pick) to make any package involving Deng enticing.
So far, there’s a good chance the Lakers can work out a win-win deal with Randle since the player remains very interested in resuming his career with the purple-and-gold. The money would obviously influence his decision this summer, yet there are other factors – stability, familiarity and the opportunity to win — that would swing the tide in the Lakers’ favor.