Julius Randle has been turning heads for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. The bruising big man has averaged 22.6 points and 9.9 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the field during the month of March, establishing himself as the team’s best player.
Randle entered into the season with the knowledge that his rookie contract would expire this summer, making him a restricted free agent. Now, there was the possibility that the Lakers signed him to a contract extension early into the season.
But that deadline came and went without a deal being struck. With everything on the line, Randle has turned in the best season of his young career and will undoubtedly have a number of suitors hoping to pry him away from Los Angeles in July.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers had the opportunity to lock Randle up on a long-term extension at what now appears to have been a bargain salary:
The Lakers had the opportunity to lock in Randle before the season on an extension starting at $12.4 million, the amount of his cap hold, according to a person privy to the stalled negotiations.
The Lakers, under the watchful eyes of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka, made strides toward freeing up enough cap space to make a run at signing a pair of max-level free agents.
LeBron James and Paul George are considered the team’s prime targets. Should the Lakers somehow manage to sign both, Randle would likely become a casualty, as fitting his salary in under the cap would be very difficult, particularly with Luol Deng’s bloated deal devouring valuable space.
Still, at this point, the decision to not sign Julius Randle to an extension at just $12.4 million per year appears to be a mistake. Randle started the season coming off the bench in a more limited role, but he continued to work and earned his place in the starting lineup.
It’s hard to imagine where this Lakers team would be without Randle, who has become vital to their success. He will be a restricted free agent, which means the Lakers will have the opportunity to match any offer, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team with cap room, like Randle’s hometown Dallas Mavericks, throw a huge offer his way with the hopes that Los Angeles doesn’t match while they wait for George and James.
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