The Los Angles Lakers are better than last season. That's unmistakable. They're 5-6, have seven players averaging double figures in terms of points and have done all that despite Lonzo Ball being objectively bad in every facet of the game. Coach Luke Walton deserves credit for handling a rotational clog at the big spots and a roster full of young players who want to prove themselves. That...
The Los Angles Lakers are better than last season. That's unmistakable. They're 5-6, have seven players averaging double figures in terms of points and have done all that despite Lonzo Ball being objectively bad in every facet of the game.
Coach Luke Walton deserves credit for handling a rotational clog at the big spots and a roster full of young players who want to prove themselves.
That said, there is a roster crunch coming soon. Julius Randle's future with the Lakers has been a source of speculation throughout the summer, as neither side seemed especially eager to work out a long-term contract extension. The Lakers have eyes on landing at least one—if not two—max players this summer, and Randle's impending free agency makes him seem like an odd man out.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Randle is "unlikely" to continue with the team moving forward.
"One player whose future is very unlikely to continue with the Lakers is Julius Randle, their third year forward," Wojnarowski said during a Wednesday broadcast (h/t Jack Maloney of CBS Sports).
"Rob Pelinka, their general manager, and Magic Johnson, their president, will be faced with this question. Do they look to trade Randle between now and the February trade deadline and get back potentially a first-round draft pick for him, or do they roll the dice and wait until summer when he's a restricted free agent."
The most logical move here would be to trade Randle, except for the fact he's been really good this season. After coming into 2017-18 in the best shape of his life, Randle is averaging 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in just 19.2 minutes per game. He's shooting 60.7 percent from the floor overall.
The Lakers want to move forward with Kyle Kuzma and Larry Nance at the 4, but re-signing Randle with the intent of later trading him isn't a terrible fallback option if he keeps playing this well.
Another player the Lakers would love to move on from is Luol Deng. Much like the Timofey Mozgov contract, the Deng deal became one of the NBA's worst before the ink even dried. Deng has played in only one game this season and won't be a part of the rotation for the foreseeable future with Kuzma, Nance and Randle taking up minutes at the 4.
Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reported the Lakers have found no market for Deng via trade. The veteran forward recently told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne he understands his future isn't in Los Angeles, just barely over a year after he signed with the franchise.
"It definitely hurts," Deng said. "But the only answer for me now is to prove myself away from L.A. I'm not asked to play, I'm not in the rotation, so I can't prove myself here.
"Most of these young guys don't understand the business of basketball, so if I come in here and I'm angry every day, I'm taking something away from them. I have to be smiling, I have to be in the best mood I can be in, because they're living their dream of being an NBA player."
A buyout is probably the only way Deng finds his exit this or next season.