It has been a bit of a running theme here at Pace and Space that Julius Randle is too good for that rotten Lakers franchise he’s been toiling for, usually when he does something Breakfast Special-worthy in the course of a game.
But with Randle clearly not in the Lakers’ long-term plans as they look to dump salary and create room for the alleged superteam involving Paul George, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard, admittedly a superteam that has about as much chance of happening as I have of winning the Powerball and re-enacting Charlie Sheen’s midlife crisis in my own home, the question then becomes where are they going to send him?
Well, they could use him as a trade chip, and for that there is one very logical trade partner:
The Indiana Pacers.
Randle is a restricted free agent, so there’d have to be some derring-do with his agent involving qualifying offers and what-have-you, but if that could be hammered out, Randle becomes a logical trade for the 23rd pick in this year’s draft, which the Pacers hold.
The hitch is that Indiana can probably get a better offer for that 23rd pick from another team; the Nuggets sending the 14 and Kenneth Faried for the 23 and Al Jefferson‘s expiring contract makes the most sense for Denver from a salary cap positioning point of view, but there are even rumors floating around that Memphis is willing to dangle the fourth overall pick to anyone willing to take Chandler Parsons‘ contract off their hands.
But the Pacers should at least consider Randle, assuming that all the salary stuff can be hashed out at a reasonable price.
Randle plays the same position, and unlike Faried, who at best is a rich man’s Trevor Booker and in reality is a placeholder salary slot in advance of Myles Turner becoming a restricted free agent in 2019, Indiana would be getting a guy who’d replace the role Young played should Thad decide to opt out and sign with another team.
There are downsides, of course. For one thing, Randle is much more of a post-oriented power forward, more of an undersized (6’9) center than the prototype stretch 4 the league’s been moving toward the past few years.
Randle is a good rebounder (nearly nine per game for his career, and with a rebounding percentage better than any the Pacers have on their roster at present), a plus defender, and a spectacular restricted-area finisher (he hit 72.8 percent of his shots from inside three feet, numbers that are downright Wilt Chamberlain-esque close to the rim; Wilt’s best shooting season, he hit 72.7 percent of his shots, almost all of them layups or dunks.)
Randle is a 1.6-VORP, 19.9 PER player, his offensive stats finally starting to slide into the territory his defensive stats staked out for him in his first two full seasons.
And he’s 23 years old.
The problem, of course, is that unlike Thad Young, Randle scares exactly nobody on the perimeter, and he’d be competing for minutes and role with Turner and Domantas Sabonis, and offensively, he’d turn Indiana’s low post presence into a clogged toilet, possibly playing center with Turner as a stretch 4 before the roles reversed defensively and Turner’s rim protection became more valuable at the other end of the floor.
But in terms of raw talent, even if Randle doesn’t fit in Indy, he becomes a valuable trade chip for the Pacers. Trade, in goods as well as in basketball players, is all about surplus; a team in need of a Randle-like low post presence but with an abundance of taller 3-and-D wings, could send one Indiana’s way.
Julius Randle is too good for that rotten Lakers team and its verklempt front office. But for Kevin Pritchard on draft day? He might be just what the doctor ordered.