NBA Trade Rumors: Could Lakers Trade for Julius Randle This Offseason?

In an effort to remove Russell Westbrook’s $47 million expiring salary from its 2022-23 salary cap sheet, the lakers – despite her anonymous and on record Insisting on the contrary – will be beggars, not voters.

The Lakers at the moment supposedly keep shooting for the moon with her goal of fulfilling both her “Plan A” in Kyrie Irving and “Plan B” in either Eric Gordon or her long-rumored target, Buddy Hield.

However, with few desirable assets to sweeten a deal for Westbrook or other viable contracts for a second trade, the Lakers could be stuck and turning to a “Plan C,” if you will. Rather than landing a third high-profile star to pair up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, or elite role players on shorter contracts that don’t compromise their long-term financial flexibility, the Lakers could be stuck between the two with their only options — at least if they always still reluctant to part with their two available first-round picks – taking on another overpaid semi-star with a longer contract or simply keeping Westbrook.

One of the most logical “Plan Cs” to float about this offseason would see a player the Lakers drafted way back in 2014 finally come home.

In his latest Substack newsletter one of the longtime NBA insiders Marc Stein’s sources suggested Randle’s return to Los Angeles as a possible solution both the Lakers talent deficit and the curtsy‘ crowded cap sheet to 2025-26, the final year of Randle’s current contract:

But a league source in Las Vegas advised me to keep an eye on the Knicks and Lakers, who are discussing a possible Westbrook deal if – IF – Leon Rose can successfully bring Donovan Mitchell to Madison Square Garden. Source’s take: Following the addition of Mitchell, New York would be expected to explore scenarios to trade away Julius Randle. And Randle, just a season away from breaking through to All-Star and All-NBA status, is arguably the kind of player the Lakers would need to consider if — IF — they can’t, Westbrooks expiring $47.1 million contract a trade for Kyrie Irving. Randle, 27, is entering the first year of a four-year, $117 million ($106 million guaranteed) contract with the Knicks and, of course, played his first four NBA seasons with the Lakers.

He still owed him everything four years, $117 million With overtime beginning this upcoming season (with a player option last year), it’s not hard to see why the Knicks would rather spend that money elsewhere, especially with Randle making a move after his 2020-21 All-NBA campaign and Donovan Mitchell’s alleged potential commercial availability.

With the entire NBA on hold until the Nets figure out how to handle Kevin Durant’s trade request, it may be a while before any of the aforementioned dominoes start falling. Still, it’s worth considering whether the readmission of Julius Randle would even make sense for the Lakers from a basketball perspective.

More than anything else, the Lakers need 3-and-D wings – guys who can guard multiple positions and block shots from around the perimeter to lighten the defensive load on LeBron and AD and give them room on offense. And if they can’t find a way to attract players who can do both, they absolutely must offer a boon in one of those two categories. To gauge whether Randle can plug at least one of the Lakers’ two gaping holes, they need to figure out which version of him they should sign up for.

In 2020–21, Randle was the 19th top scorer of the season (24.1 points per game) with an efficiency just below the league average (51.6 eFG% compared to 53.8 eFG). In 2021–22, Randle’s scoring and efficiency fell off a cliff averaging 20.1 points per game at 45.9 eFG% compared to a league average of 53.2 eFG%.

For comparison, Westbrook finished his terribly inefficient campaign at the Lakers with 47.6 eFG% almost two percentage points better than Randle last season.

Of course, no stat can tell the full story of a player’s season, but adding a player coming from a season where he hit less efficiently off the field than Westbrook did last season feels like a non-starter.

Though Julius Randle is entering his ninth NBA season, he’s still only 27 years old and at least a few years away from where you’d expect a normal, non-LeBron aging curve to take its toll.

So what happened to Randle between his second and third seasons with the Knicks?

Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks

Julius Randle and Russell Westbrook both had 2021-22 seasons that they would presumably like to forget.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

One of his biggest points of regression was beyond the arc. Randle shot a near-Westbrookian 30.8% on threes, losing more than 10 percentage points from the 41.1% he scored from downtown in his previous breakout campaign. Incredibly, Randle finished 2021-22 with a 41.1% overall field goal percentage in an unfortunate case of bizarre statistical synchronicity.

While Randle’s shooting ability from deep certainly took a dip last season, it’s worth noting that he even fell below his own below-average career mark of 33.2% and emerged as the central center of the Knicks’ stagnation on a seriously difficult shot quality, 21st place Offense. According to that basketball indexRandle’s 2021-22 3-point shooting quality ranked in the fourth percentile of all NBA players, meaning he hit harder threes than 96% of the NBA.

While it’s unlikely he’ll ever shoot over 40% of threes again in his career — especially in the most competitive looks like 2020-21 — playing alongside one of the game’s leading playmakers in LeBron James would almost certainly push his raw percentage to three at least league average or better. In fact, the Basketball Index gave Randle’s perimeter-shooting talent a solid B grade in the 2021-22 season due to the brutal quality of his looks, a respectable mark if still a steep drop from the A+ he earned for his shooting accuracy during the season received last season.

While he’s probably not exactly a knockdown type, Randle would likely shoot well enough to passably clear the ground for LA’s top duo.

And even through his bad year, Randle remained an elite playmaker and rebounder, dishing out 5 assists per game and taking down 9.9 boards, a couple of skills that are always nice to have but not quite as valuable when your team is already over one of which features the best in the sport in both categories – as we saw at Westbrook last season.

On defense, Randle isn’t steadfast enough to slip into a true 3-and-D role, but he’s not a purposeful disaster either. Typically, Randle spent his time defending lesser-used 4s and did a subpar job at it. If you can hide him in that role, his shortcomings may prove relatively benign, but the Lakers would likely be hoping to keep that space open for a 20-year-old LeBron trying to flex his legs for a primary offensive role rescue. especially during the regular season. Especially with Darvin Ham’s insistence on a defense-first basketball, Randle seems to be missing the second half of the 3-and-D equation the Lakers so desperately need.

And yet, defense isn’t even the biggest red flag when it comes to Randle’s potential Lakers reunion next season.

Although Randle is a relatively valuable offensive contributor, almost everything Randle does comes from isolation. Again, according to the Basketball Index, he isolated more than 96% of NBA players last season, a style of play that just wouldn’t fly alongside LeBron or Anthony Davis. While one would hope Randle could adapt his role within a hypothetically more dynamic offensive line than the Knicks last season, he has shown little particular aptitude for thriving in the types of off-ball roles enjoyed by LeBron’s teammates be required.

During his three seasons with the Knicks, Randle never achieved a Movement Attack Rating better than D, according to the Basketball Index, which is representative of the percentage of his half-court performance that is attributable to off-ball actions such as screens, cuts, and putts . The back. He also rarely rolls when setting screens, typically preferring to pick and pop, a skill that would compliment the inner dominance of the Lakers’ top duo – if only he were a true sharpshooter.

In general, there are some ball stops in Randle’s play that work best when he’s the center of an offense, when he has the time and space to reset things and get to work, but he’s not efficient enough to do this Type of being a competitive team or malleable enough to be lower down the pecking order with one.

All of this also ignores the acrimonious terms on which Randle left the Lakers. After asking the Lakers to waive his rights when they clarified that he would be back in a reduced role, Randle signed a two-year deal with the Pelicans that preceded his permanent arrival in New York. Though returning to LA would also reunite him with his former Kentucky Wildcat and New Orleans Pelican Anthony Davis, his relationship with the franchise could be an obstacle to a smooth reacclimation.

Still, almost anything is better than what the Lakers got from Westbrook last season.

However, for the above reasons, namely his defense and added offensive stat, Julius Randle wouldn’t be a perfect match for what the 2021-22 Lakers currently have. And since they’d have to pay him for the next four seasons, he probably doesn’t make sense as a player considering the team is looking for financial flexibility when they could turn the page of the LeBron AD era.

The Lakers may try to bring Randle back if plans A and B end up falling through, but he might end up being a better fit as plan G, H or I than at the top of C.

Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has also covered it Yanks in SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley – no, he’s not a Cowboys fan too. You can hear him on the Lakers Multiverse Podcast and find him on Twitter at @cooperhalpern.

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