Like it or not, the Los Angeles Lakers need to begin planning for life after LeBron James – even if that life doesn’t begin for a couple more years.
The best way to start this type of long-term planning is by acquiring young talent that can contribute to winning now, while also having enough scope to continue improving down the line.
Perhaps that’s why the Lakers are being listed as a team to have an interest in their former power forward, Julius Randle, who is currently splitting opinions within the New York Knicks fan base.
According to a recent Spotify Live recording from NBA Insider Marc Stein, the Lakers could be interested in reuniting with their former lottery pick, should the stars align for New York to acquire Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz.
“If they (New York) gets Mitchell, he’s (Randle) going to get pushed to fourth in line, because it looks like RJ Barrett has probably passed Julius in terms of stature there – or will if he can get this contract extension there…I had heard in Vegas – a very plugged-in person told me, that if Donovan Mitchell were to end up on the Knicks, there could be talks between the Knicks and Lakers involving Julius, using Russ’ expiring contract.
Under the premise that Julius would be a player the Lakers would consider – at least consider, not definitively – he’s a player the Lakers would consider taking back with long-term money because he might be good enough that they would be willing to do that,” Stein said during the July 30 recording.
Randle spent four seasons in Los Angeles at the start of his career and averaged 13.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game on 49.3% shooting over 238 regular-season games.
Randle Could Make Sense
If we look back to the 2020-21 NBA season, Randle was one of the breakout players that year, as he led the Knicks into the playoffs, and dominated throughout the regular season – averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and six assists per night.
Of course, last season, we saw a slight drop-off in the six-foot-eight forward’s production, but even then he was giving New York 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per contest.
If the Lakers can find a way to incorporate Randle into their offensive system, he could certainly be a genuine threat for them moving forwards, while his time in New York has also proven that he’s an above-average defender when he’s locked in and committed to the task.
Furthermore, if Los Angeles could convince Anthony Davis to accept a role as the team’s starting center, the big-man duo of him and Randle would be a fearsome prospect for opposing teams to try and shut down – especially as both players are capable of knocking down perimeter shots, dishing the rock, and getting to work in the post.
Why Would New York Make This Trade?
After signing Jalen Brunson this off-season, the New York Knicks are in no need of Russell Westbrook’s services – however, by trading him for Randle, New York would be clearing their salary cap of three additional years of Texas native’s deal.
Randle’s contract has an average annual value of $29 million per season, so once Westbrook’s deal expires in the summer, the Knicks would have enough wiggle room on their cap sheet to continue revamping their roster, without being committed to Randle moving forward.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that when the Knicks inked Randle to his new deal, they saw him as their primary offensive option moving forward, and now that is no longer the case, he is seen as an overpay for a team that doesn’t project to be contending for a championship in the immediate future.
That’s where the Lakers come in, as Randle’s skillset could certainly help restore their offense, while also helping them during a potentially deep playoff run this season and beyond.