With the NBA trade deadline days away, trade rumors are starting to pick up speed and as always, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to be a team that pops up in trade talks as the deadline inches closer.
One name that has been in headlines over the past few weeks is former No. 7 pick Julius Randle. Randle, in the last year of his rookie-scale contract, is playing the best basketball of his young career which could result in a big payday for the 23-year-old forward. Unfortunately, that payday likely won’t come from the Lakers, according to a recent report.
On The Woj Pod, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said the Lakers “probably” aren’t going to invest in Randle long-term “for different reasons” than other young players on the block like Elfrid Payton and Emmanuel Mudiay.
The “different reasons” Wojnarowski is referring to, I’m guessing, is the fact that Randle, unlike Mudiay and Payton, is a proven NBA player. However, because the front office is looking to preserve as much cap space as possible for this summer, Randle’s days with the Lakers look like they’re numbered.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Lakers are going to trade him before the deadline on Feb. 8. In fact, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, if Randle makes it through the trade deadline, the Lakers are more likely to re-sign him. But with the knowledge that the front office likely doesn’t want to commit to Randle long-term, the front office could explore a sign-and-trade this summer.
Under the new CBA, sign-and-trades have become more popular, like the three-way trade that brought Danilo Gallinari to the LA Clippers last summer. With Randle’s restricted free agency status, that’s something that is plausible.
If they’re not planning on exploring that avenue, then a trade at the deadline makes the most sense. Randle has been great for the Lakers this year and his value is arguably the highest it has been since before the 2014 draft. If the front office knows they’re not planning on re-signing him, letting him walk for nothing would be borderline indefensible.
The Lakers have until 9 p.m. PST on Feb. 8 to figure out what they’re going to do with Randle.