When the Los Angeles Lakers’ “two max” dreams died a sudden death within the first few minutes of free agency, it looked like Julius Randle was a near lock to return to the team that drafted him No. 7 overall in 2014. However, as time passed, it started to become more apparent that wasn’t the case.
On July 2, the Lakers renounced Randle’s rights, per his request, making him an unrestricted free agent. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Randle was disappointed the Lakers weren’t interested in making a long-term commitment to him after he spent four years with the organization. Randle went on to sign a two-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans worth $18 million.
The Lakers didn’t publicly address Randle’s departure until Wednesday, when Pelinka was asked about the decision to let Randle go at the Lakers’ free agent introductory press conference.
“Julius was an unbelievable player for us last year, a great young player,” Pelinka said. “We have a philosophy here that when a player has played here and goes on to another team or gets traded, we just want them to thrive and succeed and we wish him the best.”
After Pelinka wished Randle well, he confirmed that the decision to let him go was financially motivated.
“We did identify going into this offseason to keep cap flexibility for July of 2019, so you can see that the way that our roster construction is that — other than LeBron — we didn’t do multi-year deals because keeping that flexibility is big for us.” Pelinka said. “We don’t feel like our work is done in assembling a championship team, but we feel like we’ve taken another huge step towards that.”
It’s no secret the front office is setting themselves up to pair LeBron James up with another superstar next summer, whether it be Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard, who the Lakers have been heavily linked to since Leonard reportedly requested a trade to his hometown.
It’s also possible the Lakers make a move before the summer of 2019, but James reportedly told the front office that there’s no need for them to make any dramatic changes to the roster just yet.
The Lakers are somewhat making a gamble by letting Randle walk for a 50/50 chance at signing another big name next summer, but if this summer was an indication of what the front office is capable of, it might be a risk worth taking. Only time will tell.
“Earvin and I made a conscious decision that we’re going to have our focus here, on the now. This team. We’re not going to talk about July 2019 until it gets closer, but we did make a decision to keep our flexibility,” Pelinka said.
All quotes transcribed via Spectrum SportsNet.