Heading into the 2017-18 NBA season, it appeared Julius Randle’s time with the Los Angeles Lakers was going to end via trade or free agency.
With the front office focusing on clearing enough salary cap space for two max-contract players, presumed to be LeBron James and Paul George, it figured to be difficult to re-sign Randle unless they somehow traded Luol Deng.
As Randle came off the bench to begin his fourth season, he was able to dominate backup centers. When head coach Luke Walton finally gave the 23-year-old an opportunity to start again, the Lakers played their best basketball of the season.
In 49 starts, Randle averaged 18.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in 29.9 minutes. Although the Lakers can match any offers in Randle’s restricted free agency, there is uncertainty if he will ultimately return.
According to Tania Ganguli of L.A. Times, Randle’s agent Aaron Mintz said he and his client don’t have a clear understanding of the Lakers’ positioning:
“We still have no indication of where Julius stands among the Lakers’ priorities, or if he is a priority at all,” Randle’s agent Aaron Mintz said Saturday in response to Pelinka’s comments. “We are looking forward to the marketplace in July, when we will get a clear picture of Julius’ future.”
With the Lakers keeping their options open, general manager Rob Pelinka revealed they have kept in touch with Randle’s representatives heading into free agency:
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told The Times on Friday that the Lakers’ front office is constantly in touch with Julius Randle’s representatives, and there has been “a mutual exchange of interest and hoping that we can work something out for both sides.”
At this time, the Lakers and Randle have not held serious contract talks as free agency does not officially begin until July 1.
After a career season, Randle has certainly put the Lakers in a tougher position than they had anticipated. While it seemed like Randle was not going to be a part of the team’s future, Walton said he would ‘love’ him back during exit interviews.
While the team’s goals have not changed, Randle could return to Los Angeles if the Lakers are unable to sign two max contract players this offseason.
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