The Los Angeles Lakers officially started their rebuild in 2014 when they selected Julius Randle, a 6-foot-9 lefty from the University of Kentucky, with the No. 7 overall pick.
At the time, Randle was the Lakers’ highest draft pick since James Worthy, and while Randle was no “Big Game” while he was in Los Angeles, he was a really fun player to watch develop.
In each of his four seasons with the Lakers — three if you don’t count his 14-minute rookie season — Randle improved his points per game averages, true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage and his overall box plus-minus.
His final season with the Lakers was the best of his career, and the front office had the power to match any offer for him in the summer, but they didn’t. On the second day of free agency, the Lakers renounced the rights to Randle, making him an unrestricted free agent and effectively ending his time in L.A.
While it was a shock to many Lakers fans who thought Randle might be back if the front office struck out on their two max free agent dreams, Randle told Andy and Brian Kamenetzky of The Athletic that he knew the writing was on the wall for him:
By the time last summer rolled around, were you surprised by the way things ended with the Lakers? That you didn’t end up re-signing?
Nope. Not at all.
Why do you think it ended the way it did?
It was just a situation where we had a whole new GM and front office, pretty much, that came in and wanted to make their mark, and do things that they wanted to do, and do it their way. So I was here before they came, and they had a whole new regime, or whatever, and plans they had their way, of how they wanted to do it. And that’s perfectly fine. I totally understand it. Those guys are having great success, and I’m happy for them. I’m happy for my teammates, and all that type of stuff, but it’s just a situation where I knew it was time to move on.
Whether or not it’s been deliberate, Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have erased almost every footprint left by the previous front office regime in their brief time with the organization.
With the exception of Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac, every draft pick and free agent signing made by the former front office is no longer with the team. While Ingram seems to have a good standing with his new employers, some believe his days are numbered as well.
It seems Randle was a casualty of that pattern, but he’s doing just fine with his new team.
Through 31 games with the Pelicans, Randle is averaging 19.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting from the field, and he’s making 32.7 percent of his shots from behind the arc. He’s also averaging 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while averaging 27.7 minutes per game this season.
Did I mention that he’s only making $9 million this year, the same amount Rajon Rondo is making? I’m not mad, I just think it’s funny!
Randle will make his return to Staples Center on Friday when the Lakers host the New Orleans Pelicans. There’s a chance Randle doesn’t play, as he’s nursing an ankle sprain, but if he does, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get a warm reception from the home crowd.