Julius Randle reportedly may not be long for Los Angeles.
Appearing on ESPN prior to Wednesday’s showdown between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden (h/t Lakers Outsiders on Twitter), Adrian Wojnarowski reported Randle is “very unlikely” to have a future with the Lakers:
“Rob Pelinka, their general manager, and Magic Johnson, their president, will be faced with this question: Do they look to trade Randle between now and the February trade deadline and get back potentially a first-round draft pick for him, or do they roll the dice and wait until summer when he’s a restricted free agent.”
It’s been the Lakers’ stated goal to clear cap space in advance of next summer. In fact, Pelinka went so far as to tell The Dan Patrick Show in July that he was hoping to open up two max slots so L.A. could pursue a pair of stars.
“Magic and I did a trade that allows us to have double max cap room for July 2018,” Pelinka said after shipping D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets. “With our platform, we’re really hopeful that we can add maybe a superstar or two to this young core to have the best of both worlds.”
The Lakers don’t actually have double-max cap room yet—clearing that kind of space will require some serious maneuvering involving Luol Deng and other long-term deals—but getting Randle off the books before he becomes a restricted free agent could help.
As things stand, Randle is due a $5.5 million qualifying offer if he’s still with the Lakers at season’s end. Should the Lakers extend that offer and make him a restricted free agent, Randle’s cap hold will clock in at $12.4 million until they either decide to match an offer sheet, decline to match an offer sheet or renounce his rights to pursue other free agents.
They could also opt simply not to extend a qualifying offer and let Randle become an unrestricted free agent.
Either way, the news that Randle may soon be available should have teams across the NBA excited.
Now in his fourth year out of Kentucky, Randle is averaging 11.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks on 62.2 percent shooting from the field in a new role off the bench for head coach Luke Walton.
If Randle can maintain those numbers, he would become the first player since Steve Johnson (1982-83) to average at least 11 points, five boards and a block in under 20 minutes per game.