The Los Angeles Lakers are cruising into a fresh season full of optimism, with eyes on turning the summer of 2018 all about Hollywood. The franchise has angled itself into position to sign not one, but two, superstars next summer.
That’s all fine and dandy for players like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, whose rookie contracts allow them to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes time for the Lakers to finalize their salary figures heading into free agency next summer. The same can’t be said for Julius Randle, who may find himself in a tough predicament.
Randle is on track to become a restricted free agent next summer so long as the Lakers make a $5.6 million qualifying offer to the former No. 7 pick. The catch, of course, is signing Randle to the kind of contract he’s surely looking to secure this season could chip away from the space allotted to acquire a star or two next summer.
It’s an important question that the Lakers may need all 82 games to truly evaluate, and Randle was asked for his thoughts on whether he hopes to sign an extensions with the franchise during media day on Monday.
“We'll see. Honestly at the end of the day, when it comes to that, it's just about taking care of my family, and then also me wanting to be here at the same time. So that's something my agent, as well as me, and Magic, and Rob, will discuss. We'll just go from there,” Randle said.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was the opening interview on media day, going into great detail about the kind of culture the franchise is building right now.
“We're in this incredible position that is pretty rare in the NBA right now, where we have a really really good young core of players, and then we have extremely healthy cap flexibility. To accomplish both of those things at the same time is sometimes pretty difficult, but that was Magic's vision. 'Let's get a great core and let's have cap flexibility,'
“And now we have a chance to go into July 1, 2018 and see who's in the market, and then build our team with those two max slots that we have that could be for two guys, or could be for multiple guys, or could be used to sign some of our own players,” Pelinka said.
Pelinka is stating the obvious on the back-end of that quote, sure, but it’s also a distinction worth making. The Lakers are dreaming of two stars, but what if they wind up with just one bird in the hand? What if they strike out entirely, which isn’t something unheard of in La La land lately? What if Randle plays out of his mind and is worth what will be a lucrative pay raise?
Randle’s on a contract year and there’s little-to-no reason for the Lakers to extend his contract right now. How that plays out over the next 82 games, and what impact that may have on the Lakers’ trade deadline strategy, is one of the biggest stories of the season for the purple and gold.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com