Julius Randle’s time with the Lakers has come to an end. Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers renounced their rights in restricted free agency, making Randle an unrestricted free agent on the open market.
The Lakers have renounced Julius Randle, making him an unrestricted free agent, league source tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2018
This, effectively, ends Randle’s time with the Lakers. Their best bet to have him return was to use Randle’s “Bird Rights” to re-sign him, either to a 1-year deal with a large salary or a multi-year deal with larger raises, but with a salary at a level which kept them in contention for a max free agent next season.
My guess is that these contract factors, along with whatever deterioration has occurred between Randle/his agent and the Lakers, proved to be too fine a needle to thread in today’s discussion and the team moved quickly to renounce his rights and give him a chance to find a good deal on the open market. Where Randle goes from here is unknown, but wherever he goes, he’ll have a fan in me who roots for his success.
I’m not going to lie. This one hurts.
Randle was one of my favorite Lakers over the last several years. A mecurial talent who definitely offered some bouts of moodiness, Randle’s blend of power, quickness, perimeter skill, and competitive spirit when fully engaged was intoxicating to me. Him being left handed didn’t hurt either, but that’s another topic for another day.
Randle made major strides this past season, both physically and from a skill development standpoint. After a summer of getting into tremendous condition, Randle boasted his best season as a pro by finally finding the right mix of patience and technical skill in the post to mix with his natural power and quickness to punish defenses. He finished better in the paint, posted career highs in points and rebounds, and showed an increased functionality defensively which translated to him being able to close games as the anchor of the Lakers switching schemes.
In saying all that, however, Randle was not without his flaws and those matter here too. One of the lasting points of emphasis Luke Walton would drop when discussing Randle with the media — especially after good games — was that the Lakers needed more consistency from him. This critique was typically offered in reference to both sustained physical effort and how “locked in” Randle would be on any given night.
This was especially true at the beginning of this past season when Randle was turned into a reserve and whenever Randle’s role was jerked around where he might not close a game or when he (seemingly) got too comfortable in a game situation only for his effort to wain. How fair this is or not — and I’d argue it’s not, especially considering the rope other players received — with LeBron James now in the fold, the thought that Randle might not be fully engaged isn’t something to be treated lightly. And, I would imagine, this played a role in what the front office saw as Randle’s value.
Then, of course, there is the skill standpoint. Randle possesses a strong handle for a player his size, can play in the middle or on the wing of the fast break, is excellent on both backboards, and, as noted earlier, has a growing post game which is difficult to stop. What Randle does not do, however, is shoot the ball well. Nor does he play above the rim as a pick and roll finisher. One has to wonder, then, how the FO valued Randle in the half-court as an offensive player when viewed through the prism of how to help optimize LeBron.
Don’t get me wrong, the fit can be good between James and Randle, but it’s not ideal. Randle could easily be somone who takes pressure off LeBron by creating baskets in the halfcourt via post ups and isolations or by using the extra defensive attention to create shots for teammates. But, on the flip side, telling Randle to stand in the corner as a floor spacer or to try to threaten the vertical plane as a roll man in the P&R is doing a disservice to him and his skill set while also reducing the the likelihood of the play being a success for LeBron as trigger-man.
In saying all that, though, I still wanted Randle back badly. He will not be 24 years old until after the season starts. He was a #7 pick overall and was just beginning to tap into his vast potential. Another team will now benefit from the development leaps Randle is very likely to make as he enters and plays through his prime years. And, for the Lakers and as a fan, that is difficult to swallow.
Yes, I had an affinity for Randle, but solely from how you manage a player and his value, this was executed poorly. But, here we are, and none of my complaining is going to make a difference. Sigh.
Best of luck wherever you land, Julius. I, for one, will miss you.