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Where Will Julius Randle Go?

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Julius Randle is “very unlikely to continue with the Lakers”, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Wojnarowski presented this hypothesis last week, saying that Lakers’ General Manager Rob Pelinka and President Magic Johnson will be faced with the question of what to do with the talented third-year forward.

Randle is in the final year of his rookie deal and will be a restricted free agent next summer. He’s being paid just $4,149,242 this year, but will have a cap hold of $12,447,727 as an RFA and could earn a salary exceeding even that.

The Lakers could keep him for the season and renounce his rights next offseason, letting him walk in free agency; or they could look to trade him before the February trade deadline and net a draft pick in return.

If any team wishes to trade for Randle, I assume they’d want to sign and retain him long term. That team would hold his RFA rights and could match any contract offer he may receive. Otherwise, they’d be giving away potentially a first round pick for just a half-year rental.

There are a few teams that make sense to me as possible landing spots for Randle, and I’ll dive into those here.

Indiana has transformed themselves in their first-year post-George as one of the fastest teams in the league. The Pacers are top-10 in pace and offensive rating. Last offseason, the Lakers were rumored to be in trade talks with Paul George and were dangling Julius Randle. There was reported interest by Indiana, but GM Kevin Pritchard ultimately believed he had a better deal from OKC. And, given how Oladipo and Sabonis have looked so far this season, it’s hard to second-guess him.

Randle would be a great fit with Indiana’s high-powered, fast-paced offense. The Pacers already have Thad Young, a small ball offensive-minded power forward, locked up at $14 million for two more years; and that could make this tough. Indiana does currently have almost $6 million in cap room and an open roster spot, so they could acquire Randle for just picks.

I think this would be a good fit and a nice potential spot for Randle to continue to grow his game. But it might not be what Indiana wants to do, so let’s keep looking.

The Chicago Bulls are an intriguing potential trade partner because they could allow the Lakers’ the most financial flexibility. Chicago currently has over $15 million in cap space, and also an $11 million trade exception they received in the Jimmy Butler deal. The Bulls also have some promising young talent that could fit well with Julius Randle.

Chicago could also use their excess cap space or their trade exception to allow Los Angeles to rid themselves of Luol Deng’s $17 million contract. Deng has been vocal about his desire to be traded or waived, as he believes he can still contribute in the NBA if given the opportunity. A return to the Bulls, where his career flourished, would make a lot of sense. Chicago’s front office could use some positive PR to boost the spirits of a disgruntled fan base, and bringing in the ultra-athletic Randle and former fan-favorite Deng would really help.

The Bulls would have to trade away some players to make this work; a quick glance at the roster reveals Quincy Pondexter on an expiring deal, David Nwaba who was a Laker last year, and possibly even Nikola Mirotic, who reportedly wants out of Chicago.

The Bulls seem like a strong candidate, but I’ll give you one team who should have an even higher interest in striking a deal with the Lakers.

The Dallas Mavericks have the cap space to bring in Randle for just a draft pick. They also play in Julius Randle’s hometown. The Mavs are in the process of reinventing themselves and preparing for life without Dirk. Randle would fit perfectly alongside Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. to form a young, exciting trio in Dallas.

The Mavs have their own restricted free agent to make a decision on next summer, too. After refusing to dole out a max contract to Nerlens Noel the last offseason, Dallas brought him back on a qualifying offer and Noel vowed to prove he was worthy of the max. However, this season he’s averaging just 5 points and 5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game; and has been relegated to the bench recently.

As I mentioned above, an issue teams looking to acquire Randle must be aware of is the potential contract offers he’ll draw next offseason. Dallas may choose to let Noel walk, or resign him relatively cheap. They will also have to make a decision on Seth Curry, who is making just $3 million this year but who’s play will warrant offers much, much larger than that.

I think Dallas, Chicago, and Indiana are the top three contenders to pull off a trade for Julius Randle, but there may be many other teams in the mix as well. Let us know where you think Randle might go, or if the Lakers’ should even look to trade him at all. He’s made great strides in what is just his third season. And might just be scratching the surface of his potential.

About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks’ supporter

I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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