The Lakers’ hiring of Tracy Murray as their full-time shooting coach isn’t the only news they announced on Thursday. They also informed us they have exercised Julius Randle’s 3rd year option on his contract.
While this is important news, it is also wholly expected. The recent high lottery picks — remember, Randle went 7th in his draft — to not have their 3rd year options exercised are Hasheem Thabeet and Anthony Bennett. Those two not only severely under-performed their draft status, the fact that they went number 2 and 1 overall in their respective drafts meant they carried very high costs in comparison to other rookies in their class*.
Even though Randle has already missed an entire season due to a serious injury, he’s actually showing he can play. His summer league stats — 12.8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.2 steals — reflect positive steps from the glimpses we got in the past two summer leagues and last year’s preseason. At the money he will be slated to earn next season (roughly $3.26 million), he is a bargain. Especially as the cap makes its first in what could be multiple huge jumps due to the new national TV deal.
Ultimately, then, this is good business. But it also reflects where Randle is seen as going in his career. As I discussed with Nate Duncan, I think Randle’s game — especially offensively — is exactly what teams will be looking for from their PF’s in the years to come. The Lakers, then, are simply taking the steps in order to ensure he stays in house.
*For comparison’s sake, Randle, as the #7 pick last year will make $3.13 million this season. D’Angelo Russell, as the #2 pick from this year, will make $5.1 million. Already, you see the difference between guys picked as high as Russell vs. those picked in the 2nd half of the lottery like Randle.