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NBA Free Agency News: Lakers extend qualifying offer to Julius Randle

Julius Randle will be a restricted free agent after the Lakers extended him the qualifying offer.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers announced they have extended the qualifying offer to four-year big man Julius Randle. Randle will now enter restricted free agency on July 1, meaning that the Lakers have the right to match any offer he receives from another team.

The 23-year-old is coming off of a breakout season with the Lakers, averaging a career-high 16.1 points per game on a career-high 55.8 shooting from the field, all in just 26.7 minutes per game. He also dominated on the boards, grabbing eight rebounds per game.

However, things weren’t going Randle’s way to start the season. After undergoing a complete body transformation in the offseason, the former No. 7 overall pick lost his starting job to Larry Nance Jr. and was limited to 22.4 minutes per game through the first 30 games of the season without any real explanation.

Luckily, head coach Luke Walton and Randle were eventually able to get on the same page and Randle looks to be on his way to a large payday, whether it be from the Lakers or another team. The Lakers can match any offer made for Randle in restricted free agency, but Randle’s future in Los Angeles will likely depend on what happens with Paul George and LeBron James in the coming weeks.

Should the front office lure just one of George or James to Los Angeles this summer, there’s a good chance Randle re-signs on a long-term deal. However, if both George and James commit to the Lakers, things starts to get a little tricky in terms of keeping Randle.

In order to sign all of George, James and Randle, the Lakers would have to find a trade partner willing to absorb the final two years of Luol Deng’s four-year, $72 million contract into cap space without sending money back. While not impossible, it’s unclear if the Lakers want to give up assets to re-sign Randle to a long-term deal or wait to use those assets when another superstar player becomes available like Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly has his eyes set on coming home to Los Angeles.

It’s going to be an interesting summer for both the Lakers and Randle, but the two parties might still be able to work a deal out to keep Randle in purple and gold for many years to come.

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