As the Los Angeles Lakers season has unfolded in disappointing fashion, many have lamented the roster decisions made by the organization after signing LeBron James.
One of the oft-talked about moves was renouncing the rights to restricted free agent Julius Randle who then signed with the New Orleans Pelicans on a team-friendly contract. As it turns out, Randle, who had a career year in Los Angeles prior to his free agency, was never truly given the option to stay.
Following via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
Four months later, when the Lakers’ pursuit of James to fill the same forward slot Randle occupied had become widely known, the former Kentucky product again became an afterthought.
Even though the Lakers controlled Randle’s rights as a restricted free agent, L.A. never made an offer to him, sources told ESPN. This despite coach Luke Walton and his staff’s preference to keep Randle, as earlier reported by The Athletic and confirmed by ESPN.
Randle’s dismissal is evidence of a bigger problem in the Lakers front office: a lack of awareness about the teams’ needs and the inability to hold any continuity.
Randle, despite his career year, still has flaws and while he is putting up big numbers in New Orleans, some of the advanced data is not too kind to him. But given the Lakers’ position, he would have been an enormous help to this Lakers team which never truly found a workable center rotation amid injuries, trades and lack of talent. The Lakers said the right things leading up to his free agency, but it’s clear now that they never had the intention to re-sign him after James arrived.
Perhaps more importantly, it shows the disconnect between Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka and the coaching staff who reportedly wanted Randle back, even after some struggles with getting him incorporated into the starting lineup early last season.
It’s these losses in the margins of team building that has made many question whether Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will ever be able to build around LeBron James. Given the evidence that we now have, those questions should only get louder.