How the free agency market for Julius Randle plays out is vital to the Los Angeles Lakers. Randle was arguably the team’s best player last season, and earned a hefty payday.
The problem is, he may not find it, especially now that Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times reports the Dallas Mavericks are likely out on Randle.
Unless something changes, doesn’t sound like the Mavericks are going to be in on Julius Randle.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) July 1, 2018
And should he find a completely dry market in free agency, a bevy of options open up to further improve this team — even beyond potentially adding star power like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. And as frustrating as it would be to go through everything he has in his first three years and not get the money he deserves because of a league wide lack of cap space, Randle accepting his $5.5 million qualifying offer might be the prudent way forward.
To beat the Golden State Warriors, you need more than a super team. Throwing together superstars without considering fit might work most years, but to beat the nearly perfectly constructed team, you need talent, for said talent to fit together, and, well luck.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will say they’ve created their own good fortune by opening up so much cap space the way they have, but no one could have planned for the complete lack of space around the vast majority of the NBA. The entire league is in a cap crunch and, unfortunately for Randle (and all other bigs, frankly), there just isn’t much of a market for a restricted free agent who’s had the ups and downs he has thus far.
I want to make this absolutely clear: I’m rooting for Randle to get paid. He’s gone from missing all but 14 minutes of his rookie season, to playing for maybe the worst coach in the history of the NBA, to having his minutes yanked around the first part of last year and finally hitting the free agent market having proven his value to the organization despite all that.
But the market is what it is, and the more prudent move might be to gamble on himself this year and hit unrestricted free agency next summer when more teams have money to spend.
Our own Alex Regla put together a great piece on potential suitors for Randle earlier this week, so as we get into the official free agency period, that’s a great tool to use to monitor the potential landing spots for Randle. As those dry up, the higher the likelihood becomes that he accepts that qualifying offer.
What exactly would him doing so mean for the Lakers? A ton, really.
First and foremost, Randle would save the Lakers at least $6.5 million in cap space (and catch your breath for this one), thus allowing the Lakers to use the stretch provision on Luol Deng and still have room for James and another max guy.
As they currently stand, the front office will probably have to add a first-round pick (or two) to shed Deng’s salary without taking money back. Yes, stretching Deng would mean that money would still be owed, but keeping those picks in-house would give the Lakers flexibility to improve the roster and not merely hope to make addition by subtraction (say, in a Kawhi Leonard trade).
Randle would also fit really well alongside the guys we all hope are Lakers by summer’s end.
A lineup of Lonzo Ball, their shooting guard, Leonard, James and Randle would stifle any lineup they face with their switchability and after stops could get out and run seeing as every single guy on the court can grab the board or turnover and lead the break.
Add to that guys like Brandon Ingram (though he seems likely to be in a Kawhi trade), Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and other veterans forced to take smaller deals for the same reason Randle might have to and that’s a championship contender capable of (dare I say it? I DO HOLY CRAP I DO) knocking off the Warriors.
Golden State benefitted from Stephen Curry’s ankle issues lowering his market value. Maybe they saw this coming, but Draymond Green and Klay Thompson reaching their absolute ceilings is somewhat lucky in and of itself. The cap happening to skyrocket, giving the Warriors enough space to sign Kevin Durant was one of the luckiest things ever to happen to an already great team.
Randle not being able to cash in on his hard work the last couple years would be disappointing obviously, but if you’re going to gamble on yourself, there are endlessly worse situations to do so than for a Lakers team that could win a championship alongside LeBron James. The Lakers would retain his full bird rights next year and could go above the cap to pay him what he’d fully deserve.
As of right now, way too many factors are coming into play before we can realistically consider this an option and expecting this of Randle is borderline (if not actually) unfair.
Lakers fans will obviously have their sights set on the stars, but if they do come and Randle’s market dries up, they could go from being a good team to a potentially special one with an immensely bright future ahead.