Lakers Rumors: Julius Randle could have been signed to extension

Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers gets ready to check in to the game during the fourth quarter of a basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on March 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers gets ready to check in to the game during the fourth quarter of a basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on March 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. /

Recent Los Angeles Lakers rumors involve Julius Randle, as the team may have missed out on signing him to a team-friendly contract.

With the Los Angeles Lakers season winding down, Lakers rumors are going to pick up sooner than later. This is an important offseason for the Lakers. They are going to be in the market for two max contract free agents. If that dream is going to come to fruition, they still have some work to do.

Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka were left with a bit of a mess in terms of the roster. The last regime, led by Mitch Kupchak, ludicrously threw big money contracts at Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov in the summer of 2016. The new regime was able to trade Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets, but it also cost them, D’Angelo Russell.

In return, the Lakers received Brook Lopez and a 2017 first round draft pick, which they turned into Kyle Kuzma. Finding a trade partner for Deng has not been as fruitful.

Deng started the first game of the season but has not played a minute since. If Los Angeles is able to move his contract, they would be in great shape this offseason. If not, some sacrifices will need to be made.

One player who will be at the forefront of the Lakers’ plans this summer will be Julius Randle. Randle, along with Jordan Clarkson, was involved in numerous trade rumors the last offseason. The two were offered to the Indiana Pacers in a package for Paul George but were turned down.

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Prior the calendar flipping to 2018, it was reported that Los Angeles would love to trade Randle and Clarkson. The New Orleans Pelicans also made an offer for the duo prior to the NBA trade deadline.

Ultimately, only Clarkson was traded away, and rightfully so. Randle has played very well for Los Angeles this season. After some early season struggles when he was upset about coming off the bench, he has really turned things on.

Luke Walton seemed hesitant to truly to turn to him, but once he did, the results were great. Randle was re-inserted into the starting lineup when injuries piled up and he never looked back.

As a starter, Randle is averaging 18.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 30.5 minutes per game. He has single-handily won a few games for the Lakers in the starting lineup, putting up some monster performances.

As a result, the Lakers decisions this offseason have become more complicated. When the season began, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that this would be Randle’s last with Los Angeles, if he even made it through the whole season. With how he has played, it will be difficult to let him walk as a free agent, especially if the Lakers strike out when big fish hunting.

According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, this is actually something that could have potentially been avoided. According to Pincus, the Lakers actually had a chance to lock Randle up to an extension that would have been a very fair price given his performance this season.

"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."

When Johnson and Pelinka took over, their goal was to clear cap space for free agency in 2018. They have done well to accomplish that goal. Signing Randle to an extension prior to the season would have taken up some of that cap space. While management covets the cap space, and hindsight is 20/20, it seems not locking Randle up to the team-friendly number was a misstep.

With how he has played, it is unlikely that the Lakers, or any other team for that matter, will be able to sign Randle for close to $12.4 million.

Randle has been important to the Lakers this season. Despite the constant role changes and minute fluctuations the season, he continued working hard. That hard work landed him a starting role again, which he has thrived in.

Los Angeles may regret not working harder on that original number Pincus reported. Keeping Randle in the fold while adding one or two outside free agents will not be an easy thing to do.

Johnson and Pelinka will have their work cut out for them this summer. However, one thing is clear. Randle has earned a big money extension, whether it be from the Lakers or another organization.

Next: 10 Greatest Free Agent Signings In Lakers History

Hopefully, they can figure out a way to retain Randle while landing the max free agent, All-Star talent they are aiming for.