Julius Randle shows the Lakers what they would lose if they let him go

first_imgLOS ANGELES — Julius Randle has been on the bench, in the doghouse and out of the Lakers’ long-term plans.But he just keeps playing so well.If the Lakers are resigned to eventually parting with Randle, either by trading him before the Feb. 8 deadline or letting him walk in free agency, the fourth-year forward is making a point of showing what they’d be giving up on.His 22-point, 14-rebound performance in Tuesday’s 99-86 win over Sacramento was just the latest of his frequent uprisings in this tumultuous season. It was just the fifth time this season he cracked 30 minutes. That made Randle something of an enigma on the roster this season. But he has value.If the Lakers will have to renounce Randle’s rights just to get under the cap threshold to sign their target superstars next summer, then, the thinking goes, they should trade him now to get some return on investment.But what if Paul George and LeBron James don’t decide to make L.A. their next stop? Do the Lakers really want to watch Randle average double-doubles somewhere else for the next 10 years?Before he started playing so well, the Lakers were believed to be open to a bargain-basement price on Randle, considering even a straight swap with disgruntled and benched Dallas center Nerlens Noel.The price tag is going up.In spurts, Randle plays like someone the Lakers would not mind paying for years to come. On Tuesday, he matched his season high with six assists. “I just feel like we have a lot of guys who are trying to score,” Randle said, “so (I’m) making a better effort defensively and playmaking for guys. It’s better for the team.”Despite his ability to produce, the Lakers have always viewed Randle as an incomplete player, prone to turnovers – he had six against Sacramento – and limited defensively. Walton found a way to neutralize those defensive woes, however, by moving Randle to the bench, where he was able to switch on virtually every possession.“He, in my opinion, is one of the best bigs in our league at switching and guarding every position on the floor, one through five,” Walton said. “In the starting lineup, we need him to play more traditional coverage and schemes.”That is where he has struggled in the past, going head-to-head against bigger and more talented adversaries.If the Lakers are trying to showcase him for a trade by starting him, as has been suggested by media reports, then Randle’s defense is the likely tradeoff.In the meantime, the points and rebounds should continue to add up. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersHe is averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game despite averaging six fewer minutes than last season. He has thrived in his last three games starting alongside Lonzo Ball, notching double-doubles in two of the three games and finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds in the other.“He is such a dynamic athlete,” Coach Luke Walton said, “that when he drives the lane, when he is under control, we always get something good.”So why is Randle’s departure from the Lakers viewed as so inevitable? He was included in an ESPN report this week that the Lakers have made both him and Jordan Clarkson available in trades, as well as Larry Nance Jr.As the organization commits to a core of Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, the other promising young players in whom they have invested so much have become extraneous, especially if their salaries will cut into the Lakers’ ability to sign one or more max-contract free agents.The writing has been on the wall for Randle since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka declined to sign him to an extension before October’s deadline, setting him up for restricted free agency next summer. He lacks the defensive skills and passing acumen of Nance and the floor-spacing ability of Kuzma and Brook Lopez. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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