The Los Angeles Lakers’ pursuit of two max free agents in the summer of 2018 will likely have major casualties. The team and Jordan Clarkson appear to be headed towards a mutual parting of ways while Julius Randle’s future as an upcoming free agent makes him another potential loss among the young core.
While fans have geared up for Randle to be traded or allowed to walk this summer, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne appeared on ESPN LA radio on Wednesday to claim that the big man is not guaranteed to leave the Lakers by the start of the next season.
“I think (it is) more likely there is going to be a lot of people who don’t get traded because the fact remains Julius Randle is a lottery pick. He’s playing pretty darn well right now. He’s a valuable player for them. They don’t have any incentive to trade him right now because he’s not making money. The guys who are making money are Jordan Clarkson and Luol Deng. Nobody really wants Luol Deng. That’s somebody they’d be lucky if they could find a trade partner for him and they would probably have to give up picks or like a young they don’t want to give up or whatever it is just to get rid of his contract. But even then, they don’t have to do anything about Deng until the off-season when they have a better sense of whether they’re getting certain free agents.
I don’t see that happening until they have a better sense of what kind of cap space they really need to get. We all talk about how they need to have max cap space, yeah but you can wait until the summer to get it. You don’t have to make trades now under duress when everybody knows you’re trying to make trades. You only make the trade if there’s something good there where you don’t have to take back salary or maybe you can get a pick out of it. To me, Julius Randle, they can do a qualifying offer with him. They don’t have to do anything. They can wait until after free agency even to make him a qualifying offer. I don’t know that we’re going to see that much in terms of trades.”
It’s important to note that Shelbrune is merely hypothesizing and that this does not appear to be a sourced report. Additionally, Shelburne notes that the Lakers could extend a qualifying offer to Randle near the conclusion of free agency which would keep him on the team at a low cost for another year before he hits unrestricted free agency next summer. However, this assumes that Randle would be willing to help the Lakers out by not signing potential offer sheets and playing at far less than market value for a year.
Nevertheless, it may be an encouraging sign that the Lakers’ front office is not being hasty in making a decision about Randle who has arguably been the team’s best performer all year. Whether or not he has a future in LA is to be determined, but the Lakers should look at all options that could allow them to keep the young big man.