The Lakers have made no secret of their plan to chase two max free agents next summer.
Los Angeles wants to be in the mix.
A wrinkle: Julius Randle will be a restricted free agent with a $12,447,727 cap hold.
Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:
One player whose future is very unlikely to continue with the Lakers is Julius Randle.
Randle is arguably the Lakers’ best player right now, and he’s just 22. He shouldn’t be hastily cast aside.
Still, when the prize could be LeBron and George, renouncing Randle would be a small price to pay. That’s the simplest route to clearing major cap space.
In an ideal world for the Lakers, it wouldn’t come to that. They could trade Randle before February’s deadline for value. Knowing he might no longer fit in Los Angeles will drive down the Lakers’ return, but there’s still value in acquiring his Bird and matching rights. The Lakers could get a future draft pick that wouldn’t count against the cap next summer and might even be useful for unloading Luol Deng and/or Jordan Clarkson or even trade Deng and/or Clarkson with Randle now.
But what if the Lakers strike out on major free agents? They’d regret selling low on Randle now.
So, the Lakers could keep him into the summer as a hedge. If LeBron, George, Cousins, etc. sign elsewhere, the Lakers could re-sign Randle. But there’s always a chance Randle is unwilling to wait around for those stars to decide and presses the issue with an offer sheet. Even in the best-case scenario with keeping Randle past the trade deadline, two stars picking Los Angeles, the Lakers would lose Randle for nothing.
Now, it’s just a matter of the Lakers determining how aggressively they want to pursue outside free agents. They could go all-in and trade Randle before the deadline or hedge by waiting until the offseason to determine how to handle him.