The Los Angeles Lakers are now focused on building around LeBron James and now forward Julius Randle is no longer a part of the plans.
Randle was reportedly set to meet with the team and was excited about James as a potential teammate. The front office was “hopeful” to re-sign him, according to Yahoo’s Shams Charania.
However, Lakers renounced the rights to Randle on Monday, removing his cap hold of $12.4 million for next season. This means that Randle is now an unrestricted free agent (so the front office is no longer able to match any offer) and Los Angeles is no longer able to go over the cap to sign Randle.
With this move, L.A. gained an additional $11.6 million in cap space. At this point, they could only sign Randle using their available cap room. The Lakers used $9 million to sign veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. Now, they have approximately $5.7 million remaining in cap space.
It’s worth noting that NBA.com’s David Aldridge said that Randle did not want to return to the team next season, which conflicts Charania’s report (via Silver Screen and Roll):
“Randle has made it clear that I don’t think he really wants to be back there, so are you putting money into a guy that doesn’t really want to be back there?”
Perhaps he was unwilling to take a one-year deal, even though there will be more money to spend across the league next offseason. The market is still relatively dry with potential fits like the Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers already spending money this summer.
Los Angeles could still agree to a sign-and-trade with Randle, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe, which could be used as leverage to land another star to pair with James.
In a recent report, Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned this as a serious possibility to land Kawhi Leonard (via ESPN):
“The price for Leonard would be substantial. The Lakers could have to surrender a combination of former first-round picks — from Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart — and future first-round picks and perhaps restricted free agent Julius Randle in a sign-and-trade agreement.”
But since the Spurs are over the cap, his new salary can only count as half in the actual trade due to base year compensation.
Things get more complicated if the Lakers decide to stretch or trade Luol Deng. Expect some serious cap gymnastics in the front office as they decide how to properly assemble the best team around James.
Now that the team has both Rondo and Lonzo Ball, it seems more likely that James wants to play off-ball on his new team. Los Angeles has a fascinating nucleus — although it lacks much three-point shooting and could potentially still use a starting big man aside from Javale McGee as well.