NBA Rumors: Pelicans’ Julius Randle Will Reportedly Enter Unrestricted Free Agency, Knicks Could Show Interest

Julius Randle of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on during an October 2018 game against the Sacramento Kings.
Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images

With just one day having passed since the New Orleans Pelicans agreed to trade Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for several young players and future first-round draft picks, the latest whispers from behind the scenes suggest that one of the Pelicans’ best players in the 2018-19 season might choose to decline his player option with the team.

On Sunday, The Athletic‘s Shams Charania took to Twitter, where he cited league sources and reported that forward/center Julius Randle won’t be picking up the final year on his existing contract — a player option that would pay him $9 million in the 2019-20 season if he takes it. Doing so, Charania added, would allow Randle to enter unrestricted free agency after a career-best season where he averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds, and shot over 34 percent from three-point range in his first year with the Pelicans.

As suggested by CBS Sports, Randle’s supposed decision to opt out could be a smart move as he hopes to leverage his impressive performance from the 2018-19 campaign in hopes of getting a substantially better contract offer in free agency. The outlet observed that Randle had particularly stepped up last season after Davis made his trade request public in January and consequently missed several games for the struggling Pelicans.

Speculating on where Randle could end up if he does choose to enter unrestricted free agency, CBS Sports hinted that the 24-year-old big man could “be in for a major payday,” especially if teams like the Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks aren’t able to sign their top offseason targets. The Knicks were also mentioned by New York Post writer Marc Berman, who said that Randle could be one of the team’s options “if the stars don’t align” for them in this year’s free agency period.

Berman did caution, however, that pursuing someone like Randle or Washington Wizards forward Jabari Parker could potentially keep the Knicks out of postseason play for another year.

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Regardless of whether Julius Randle returns to the Pelicans or not, the team will be heading into the 2019 offseason with a solid core of young players, including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart — all of whom were acquired from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade. As pointed out by Yahoo Finance, New Orleans also has the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in this year’s draft, as well as veteran guard Jrue Holiday, who averaged 21.2 points, five rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game, and made All-Defensive Second Team honors last season.

Talking about the chances of Randle returning to the Lakers, Yahoo Finance added that the former University of Kentucky star “probably won’t be going back” to Los Angeles if he enters unrestricted free agency, as rumored. Prior to signing with New Orleans last summer, Randle played his first four pro seasons with the Lakers, as the team’s seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.