Perhaps the biggest story of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season has been Julius Randle. The power forward came into the season in the best shape of his life and it has paid dividends on the court where he’s having a career year.
Nevertheless, his status as an upcoming restricted free agent for a team desperate to sign max free agents this summer has made Randle a likely cap casualty. Recent reports have indicated that the Lakers’ front office may be wavering on that plan due to Randle’s strong play this season. But even with some questions, it appears as though the most likely case is still a divorce between Randle and the Lakers.
On his latest podcast, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that the Lakers are “probably not going to invest in him long-term.” This isn’t necessarily new information but it is interesting to see that the vibe around the Lakers (whether this is reporting or just speculation from Woj) is that the team is sticking to its plan.
That said, the verbiage of Woj’s claim is interesting. Before the season began, Randle’s future in LA was all but decided as the team made it clear that their focus was on cap space, a mentality that was telegraphed with the D’Angelo Russell trade.
Months later, the terminology indicates that the Lakers will “probably” make that same decision but that still shows a slight change of heart. Just the fact that the front office is questioning it is a sign that Randle may survive the trade deadline. ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported last week that if Randle does make it past the Thursday deadline, he will likely be re-signed in the summer.
The Lakers’ decision is becoming harder as the deadline approaches. Randle’s contract status and strong play, as well as the returns they could get for him (the Pelicans reportedly offered Alexis Ajinca and a second-round pick), make it really tough to decide whether or not to pull a trigger on a mid-season trade. Add to that the expectations that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka placed on themselves and this becomes a virtually impossible decision to make.
The trade deadline is February 8th at noon PT.