With basketball fanatics’ eyes readily gearing towards what is expected to be a eventful 2018 NBA free agency period, the Los Angeles Lakers have already found themselves back in a usual place—the center of attention.
With every inch closer to July, the amount of leaked reports and rumors related to the team have begun intensifying. For the Lakers, a team who is bound to be a major player this offseason with possible double max player aspirations, the most recent rumblings involve former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Almost lost in the shuffle among all the offseason craziness is where Julius Randle sits in the team’s priority list. If the two parties are unable to find some sort of footing come July, there will assuredly be other suitors eagerly waiting to pluck the now ultra rare commodity of a young, switching big who punishes teams in the pick and roll.
So who are the potential teams looking to woo Julius Randle? Let’s take a look at the possible bachelors:
1. Dallas Mavericks:
The team who has been most commonly tied and reportedly interested in Randle this offseason has long been his hometown of Dallas. Throughout the season murmurs arose that the Mavericks had real interest in the Lakers’ talented restricted free agent and were “expected” to make a run at him this summer.
Armed with a projected $18 million in cap space this summer, the Mavericks are in prime position to make things difficult for the Lakers — if they choose to. The team was expected to take a center with their most recent lottery pick, but instead chose to trade up to take the Slovenian wunderkind Luka Doncic. The draft shake up now adds a bit of extra fuel to the team’s search of adding a big man in free agency to bolster what is now an exciting perimeter.
With consecutive years selecting in the lottery, the team is in a semi-rebuild with aspirations to still be players in the free agent market. Beside Randle, the Mavericks have also reportedly been linked to a duo of all star big men in DeAndre Jordan, and Demarcus Cousins, to potentially fill their front court needs.
The liklihood the team chases Randle over those aforementioned names is still to be determined, but Randle’s age, skill set, and price range could be the best fit among the crop. There is a good chance the Dallas brass sells themselves and their fans on the potential core of Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr, and Julius Randle as their pillars of the future, instantly making for one of the more exciting young foundations in the league.
Doncic and Smith would be dazzling pick and roll partners for Julius who would benefit from being fed looks regularly. While it’s unknown how much playing for his hometown team matters to Randle when signing his next contract, he seemingly enjoyed playing against the Mavericks last season. In his four contests against Dallas, Randle averaged 21.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and owned a startling true shooting percentage of 68 percent.
Before the start of the 2017-18 season, ESPN projected the Indiana Pacers to finish 11th in the Eastern Conference with 32 wins. Flash forward to the end of the campaign, though, and the Pacers were one of the most shocking developments of the NBA, finishing with a staggering 48 wins and pushing LeBron James and the Cavaliers to the brink in a hard-fought, seven-game first round series.
Among what is usually considered the weaker conference, Indiana could potentially continue to find themselves in the thick of the postseason and look to bulk up their roster this summer for their next playoff run. Long recognized for their inability to draw upper echelon free agents, the Pacers will enter this summer with over $30 million dollars in cap space to do some damage, and could look to do it through the restricted free agent market.
Since he skews on the younger side with talent like Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner, going after Julius Randle could make considerable sense, especially with Thaddeus Young’s surprising opt out. Randle could theoretically slide right into the starting lineup next to Turner in the front court, making for a flexible and stout defensive duo.
Although not one of the most desirable free agency destinations, what Indiana does offer is a chance to compete in the playoffs — something Randle has echoed a desire to experience this upcoming season. If opting to go the restricted free agent route, the team is poised with enough room to potentially go after two restricted players like Randle and perhaps a Marcus Smart.
The Pacers could potentially and instantly assemble their very own young core to be reckoned with in the post Paul George era. A team made up of: Oladipo, Turner, Smart, Sabonis, number 23 overall pick Aaron Holiday, and Randle certainly has the potential to be a real threat in the Eastern Conference next season, and for years to come.
The Lakers will ultimately have the final say in what jersey Julius Randle ends up in next season. Until the team renounces his rights, the front office has every chance to match competitor’s offers.
To what extent, and threshold the team is willing to exceed in bringing back the uber skilled big is still up in the air, but the Lakers will most likely do their best in attempting to keep one of their most ferocious players of recent memory in purple and gold.