Whether the Los Angeles Lakers and restricted free agent forward Julius Randle continue their marriage this summer will be one of the most interesting subplots of the offseason.
Leaks throughout the year have made it clear that the Lakers are first aiming for bigger fish like Paul George, LeBron James and/or Kawhi Leonard before deciding what to do about Randle, which is sensible, but would also be fair to assume has made Randle feel a bit less than wanted at times.
But even if Randle did feel disrespected, the lack of cap space around the league makes it hard to peg a natural landing spot for him better than the Lakers, especially given his recent assertion that he wants to play in the playoffs next year and that Randle’s most-rumored suitor, his hometown Dallas Mavericks, are a lot further from the postseason than L.A. is.
And while such a situation could easily have the potential to alienate Randle, it appears the Lakers are at the very least doing their best to keep that from happening, according to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
While the Lakers have not begun hard negotiations with Randle, they have kept the line of communication open with his representatives. Randle will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Lakers will have the option to match any offer he receives on the market.
Even in the midst of so much uncertainty this summer, Randle still turned in the best season of his career last year and it was hard to argue he wasn’t the team’s best player. The burly big man showed improved scoring and passing abilities to go with his typically tenacious rebounding and newfound skill at switching onto smaller players defensively, making Randle exactly the type of hybrid four/undersized five Laker head coach Luke Walton seems to covet after his time with Draymond Green in Golden State.
Randle is far from Green just yet, but he was basically the Lakers’ version of him last season, and whether or not he ever reaches Green’s heights isn’t the point. Unless the Lakers can actually sign multiple superstars and are forced to part with Randle as a result, he’s shown himself to be exactly the type of homegrown, above-average starter every NBA team is looking to groom, and is worth keeping around.
With this report, it appears the front office is taking the first steps towards doing that.