He’s not a superstar by any means, but New Orleans Pelicans big man Julius Randle should be one of the most interesting secondary targets in this summer’s upcoming free agency period.
Randle’s career trajectory over the past two years has skyrocketed upwards, with the Kentucky product coming off a career campaign in 2018-19. One of just eight players to put up a 21/8/3 stat-line last season, Randle would have probably received All-Star consideration for his contributions if he played in the weaker of the two conferences and wasn’t part of the Anthony Davis trade-demand circus – he was that good.
Now, with a player option on the second year of his deal for 2019-20, one that he’ll almost certainly opt out of, Randle will undoubtedly receive a significant amount of interest on the open market. He’s just 24 years old, he’s matured both on the court and off it, and, most importantly, he’s extremely productive.
Below, we break down four of the most interesting landing spots for Randle in free agency. Let’s get into it.
Randle’s hometown team, the Dallas Mavericks, were once considered a strong contender for his services, and although much has changed around the Association since that period over a year ago, the pairing could still make a lot of sense.
After all, the Mavericks, flush with cap space this offseason, have what looks to be a generational talent on the roster now in the form of Luka Doncic and they likely don’t want to wait long to start contending – at least for a playoff spot. That’s why they had no problem clearing the roster of questionable salaries at the trade deadline in favor of future financial freedom and an elite prospect in Kristaps Porzingis.
Speaking of Porzingis, there’s no question that the Latvian sharpshooter would be a great fit next to Randle since the former is a floor-spacing big man who can protect the paint while the latter is a fleet of foot power forward who dominates the painted area on offense.
Unless Dallas feels that finding another star-level guard to pair with Doncic is a bigger need, then they could do a whole lot worse than bringing Randle home, so to speak.
The Brooklyn Nets rebuild hit fast forward this season, with the team jumping from 28 wins last year to 42 in 2018-19. They jumped from the bottom of the East to the playoffs and, at the same time, went from an afterthought in free agency to a potential team to watch.
Of course, considering the Nets could have enough cap space for up to two max deals, they may have their sights set on bigger targets. But if those were to fall through, a fallback plan like Randle would also be perfectly sensible.
Next to exciting young center Jarrett Allen, Randle could help form one of the most synergistic and productive frontcourts in the East. Also, with Randle and 2018-19 All-Star D’Angelo Russell reuniting, the team’s pick-and-roll potential would be through the roof. In fact, Randle is even versatile enough to run some pick-and-roll sets himself as the ball-handler and with Allen as the screen-setter, forcing opposing teams into awkward situations defensively.
Randle may not be on the level of some of Brooklyn’s top targets, but as a secondary option, he would be cheaper and has the upside to make the move more than worthwhile for the Nets.
As a young, up-and-coming team that’s hungry to make a legit jump next season, the Phoenix Suns could also be a logical destination for Randle.
They have a hole to fill at power forward, for one, and Randle could be an interesting fit next to Deandre Ayton. The tandem would dominate in the painted area, as both are elite finishers down low. They would also have no problem cleaning up on the glass. Issues may arise defensively, but as long as both produce up to their abilities on the offensive end, that may not matter.
What’s more, it’s time for the Suns to flip the switch and actually start winning some games. There’s only so many spots on a single team for elite draft prospects, and with how many Phoenix is adding on a yearly basis, the development of previously acquired ones is starting to stagnate.
Signing Randle would signify that the Suns are finally serious about their goal to build a winner around Devin Booker, and give them the foundation toward becoming an interesting team in 2019-20.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
If we had to pick a favorite for the team that Randle will sign with this summer, it would have to be the incumbent Pelicans.
The most recent comments made by Randle regarding his free agency made it sound like he would be happy to stay in New Orleans:
He says he’ll wait until the summer to make his final decision, but he’s enjoyed his time with the Pelicans and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him re-sign with them even if Davis — one of his good friends and the person that convinced him to come to New Orleans — is headed out the door.
“In the summertime, I’ll weigh the pros and cons of everything and what works best,” Randle said. “Honestly, it’s been great for me here. I’m loving it, I’m enjoying every second of it. My family’s happy here. It’s been a good situation. When we get to the summertime we’ll see what happens, but for now, I’m just enjoying the moment. I realize anything can happen in this business, but I’m enjoying it so far.”
Also, according to those who cover the Pelicans, the feeling is anything but one-sided:
“Perhaps Davis’ departure will open up the opportunity Randle has been looking for. It would make a ton of sense for the Pelicans to bring him back at the right price, and sources have told The Athletic there has been mutual interest expressed on both sides for a new deal this summer.”
New Orleans, for now, seems opposed to initiating a full rebuild following the imminent departure of All-NBA big man Anthony Davis, a feeling that is backed by the fact they, at last check, were opposed to trading their other All-Star, Jrue Holiday:
If that’s the case, then the Pelicans can form an intriguing squad around Randle and Holiday, who displayed very solid chemistry throughout 2018-19.
It may be for the best for Randle, too, since he played by far the best basketball of his career as a Pelican this season.
Randle won’t solely help fill the void Davis is going to leave behind once he’s dealt, but he’s the type of player you want on your team when establishing the culture of your next playoff contender, as he possesses a strong team-first attitude while being a consistent bucket-getter in his own right.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter @FrankUrbina_.