In a shocking turn of events after it appeared that Julius Randle wanted to return to the Los Angeles Lakers and play with LeBron James, the team has renounced his rights and made him an unrestricted free agent, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Randle immediately turned around a went to the Pelicans on a steal of a deal for New Orleans:
Free agent Julius Randle has agreed to a two-year, $18M deal with New Orleans, league sources tell ESPN. Player option second year.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2018
Selected with the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Randle was the first building block in the Lakers’ rebuild. However, after a rocky start to the season with head coach Luke Walton, Randle and his agent, Aaron Mintz, might have felt the team didn’t value the 23-year-old, leading to a mutual departure between the two parties.
It sounds like that was exacerbated in free agency, when the Lakers weren’t willing to fully commit to Randle being a part of their future:
According to multiple sources Julius Randle asked to be renounced by the the Lakers once it became clear his role could dramatically change this season and the team wasn’t interested in making a longer term commitment to him.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 2, 2018
With the now roughly $13 million the Lakers opened up in cap space, they will pursue big money, one-year deals with veteran free agents. They’ve already started, as the team has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Rajon Rondo worth $9 million.
If the Lakers let go of Julius Randle for Rajon Rondo, that’s going to be a tough pill to swallow for fans. However, there’s reason to believe that there’s much more to it than that.
By renouncing Randle and using the remainder of their cap space on one-year deals, the Lakers can now offer Kawhi Leonard a max contract next season by simply stretching Luol Deng’s contract. They also have just enough to facilitate a trade for Leonard while taking salary back.
However, it’s still worth questioning if letting Randle, arguably the most talented young player on the Lakers’ roster, walk for a chance at Leonard is a good move. Only time will tell what the Lakers have planned next, but it seems they did what they had to do here.
You can follow the author of this story on Twitter at @RadRivas.