Julius Randle was without a doubt one of the best players on the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2017-18 season, if not the single-best player on the roster.
Usually when teams draft players who reach that status at age 23 with plenty of room to continue to grow, keeping them is their first priority, but the Lakers’ situation isn’t a usual one.
The Lakers are set to have enough cap space to offer max contracts to two superstars this summer, a reality that leaves Randle — a restricted free agent for whom the Lakers can match any offer — in limbo as the Lakers figure out which direction they want to go and who they can potentially sign.
Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times reported earlier this week that the Lakers’ have had an open dialogue with Randle and his representatives heading into free agency, an idea Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka furthered in his latest comments to Ganguli.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told The Times on Friday that the Lakers’ front office is constantly in touch with Julius Randle’s representatives, and there has been “a mutual exchange of interest and hoping that we can work something out for both sides.”
However, it seems like Randle’s camp doesn’t think that such interest has been completely communicated, and isn’t even entirely sure whether the Lakers want to keep Randle at all (Via Ganguli):
”We still have no indication of where Julius stands among the Lakers’ priorities, or if he is a priority at all,” Randle’s agent Aaron Mintz said Saturday in response to Pelinka’s comments. “We are looking forward to the marketplace in July, when we will get a clear picture of Julius’ future.”
This ... doesn’t look great for the Lakers on its face. If an agent feels as though he has to posture in the media like this, it not only makes it look like Pelinka look like he is being misleading to the public, but it also could mean that negotiations — if they’re happening at all — are going poorly enough for Mintz to take the rarely seen step for an agent of going on the record to voice his displeasure.
This isn’t to say the relationship between Randle and the Lakers can’t be fixed (a new contract solves a lot of problems) or that Randle is definitely gone (he’s not, the Lakers can match any offer for him and there aren’t a ton of logical suitors with cap space anyway).
However, if things have deteriorated to the point that Mintz feels posturing like this is necessary, it’s not really great for the Lakers if they want to keep Randle, especially considering they already unexpectedly banished a different Mintz client (D’Angelo Russell) to the Brooklyn Nets last summer.
Making matters worse is that Mintz not only reps Randle, but oft-rumored Lakers’ target Paul George as well.
Ultimately none of this may matter. There might not be enough suitors for Randle in free agency to allow him to leave even if he wanted to, and the Lakers could match any offer anyway. George also isn’t going to choose his next free agency destination based on his agent, so if he wants to go to L.A., he wants to go to L.A.
Still, this isn’t a great look for the Lakers to have public miscommunication like this with their most-important free agent, and especially not when his agent also represents possibly their most gettable superstar target. Only time can tell if it will matter, but right now, this isn’t great.