The Los Angeles Lakers are in the middle of an nine-game losing streak. After bad home losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Charlotte Hornets, Lakers fans are trying to identify a scapegoat for the Lakers’ on-court problems. Amongst a bevy of suitors for criticism, one name that has been thrown around is Julius Randle.
Julius Randle Deserves to Stay in Los Angeles
On the court, Julius Randle has been a bright spot for the Lakers this season. Randle is currently averaging 13.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 55% from the field. Despite these numbers, Randle appeared only 20-plus minutes in 62% of games and only started four games this season. Don’t think Randle’s production is all that impressive? Of the top-25 power forwards in the league, Randle averages the least amount of minutes (22.6 mpg) and is still ranked in the top-15 in scoring. Side note: Ersan Ilyasova, Marvin Williams, and James Johnson all average more minutes than Randle, just saying. Randle’s 55 percent field goal percentage ranks him third amongst all power forwards in the league. Since Randle has entered the starting lineup, Randle is leading the Lakers in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage.
Randle’s Impact on the Salary Cap
Off the court, it is Randle’s contract that many fans have an issue with. Randle enters 2018 in the final year of his 4-year, $13 million rookie-scale contract, and will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Lakers, have a club option on Randle’s contact for the 2018-2019 season. Assuming the cap hold stands, the Lakers would pay Randle $12.4 million this summer.
Lakers fans don’t seem to think that Randle is worth a new contract, which is fair. Fans are quick to knock Randle on his positionless playing style; Randle is at a disadvantage against offensive-minded big men on the defensive end because of his size. Also, Randle’s outside shot hasn’t improved much in his four years in Los Angeles, making his offensive game somewhat one-dimensional.
Julius Randle’s Strengths on the Court
His strengths are what make Randle such an impactful player, however. Randle’s ability to grab a rebound, take it coast-to-coast, and finish with a dunk is second-to-none. Randle can finish close to the basket with both hands, which is something he’s worked on throughout his career. Randle’s defense has vastly improved since last year. For those who say that Randle is a defensive liability, go back and watch the fourth quarter of the November 29th matchup against the Warriors and December 31st matchup against the Rockets. His ability to play down-low and have the versatility to switch on guards creates favorable matchups for the Lakers.
Randle’s versatility makes him a building block for the future. Unlike Jordan Clarkson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, or Luol Deng, Randle has proven that he can play in every phase of the game this season.
Now, let’s talk about finances. If the Lakers really wanted to create cap space for the 2018 offseason they should act fast and make deals. Sending Jordan Clarkson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ivica Zubac, and a future first-round pick to OKC could bring Paul George to LA with a one-year player option left on his contract. George would most likely opt-out with hopes for a max contract. Brook Lopez and Tyler Ennis’ contracts will expire, creating even more cap space.
If the Lakers disband Clarkson, Caldwell-Pope, Lopez, Deng, Zubac, and Ennis, the Lakers would save roughly $72 million for next season. That cap space allows the Lakers to give Randle his 2018-2019 option, and restructure George’s contract to give him the max. Assuming that the NBA salary cap moves to $102 million, the Lakers would have $62 million dollars to work with if they sign Paul George. This allows the Lakers to sign another max contract, resign Corey Brewer and Alex Caruso, and sign more role players. Although keeping Randle isn’t dire to the franchise’s future, there is no need to trade a player of his ability.
What’s Next for Julius Randle?
With finances under control, the Lakers have no reason to get rid of Randle. Playing at a higher level than Clarkson, Lopez, or Caldwell-Pope, Randle has proven how he’s improved since he’s been in LA. Last year, Randle started 78 out of the 79 games he played in and put up similar numbers as his numbers this year. With the limited amount of minutes he receives, Randle does his best to make an impact. Throughout a dark stretch of games in the last month, Randle offered a competitive nature a young team needs. As a basketball player, leader, and person, Randle deserves to spend a little while longer in Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 6: Julius Randle (R) of Los Angeles Lakers in action against Draymond Green of Golden State Warriors during the basketball game at Staples Center March 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)