The 2018 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago began in full earnest on Thursday, with prospects participating in scrimmages, going through various drills and meeting with team personnel. Current NBA players were also on hand, including Los Angeles Lakers free agent Julius Randle.
The 23-year-old is on track to become a restricted free agent in July, and after initial thoughts that his future with the Lakers was murky, now appears to be integral to their success. But if the Lakers were to sign two max-contract free agents, retaining Randle would be unlikely.
Coming off the best season of his career, Randle doesn’t figure to have a shortage of suitors. There’s an expectation other teams will submit aggressive contract offers in effort to force the Lakers’ hand on making a decision as they await others in free agency.
With the process due to begin in roughly six weeks, Randle outlined what he will prioritize when it comes to signing with a team, via ESPN:
“I just want to be in a great situation where I can continue to grow as a basketball player. Continue to compete. I think going into my fifth year, I really want to compete. I see the playoffs and intensity, and that’s something I really want to be a part of and experience and for a group to be able to grow. That’s really just what I’m looking for. Have fun, compete and playing basketball in a great situation where I can continue to grow as a player.”
Randle previously expressed an interest to re-sign with the Lakers, and it was a sentiment head coach Luke Walton echoed. It was a healthy change from when the two regularly bumped heads earlier this season.
Randle and Walton have each pointed to those growing pains in their relationship as being water under the bridge and simply part of a maturation process. If the Lakers are to only sign one max-contract free agent this summer, Randle and Walton could see their wish fulfilled.
It may even be a likely scenario, considering LeBron James is not believed to be a legitimate option for the Lakers.