Dallas Mavericks and 4 Potential Trade Destinations for Julius Randle
Published on November 14, 2017
The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a painstaking rebuild. The team has held a top-7 draft pick in each of the last four drafts. With those picks, the team has selected Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball. The new Laker front office has already done away with one of those players, as Russell was traded to the Brooklyn Nets prior to this past draft.
In all likelihood, the next ex-lottery pick on his way out the door is going to be Julius Randle. Randle has put together two-plus solid campaigns in Purple & Gold, but he hasn’t quite shown the improvement that the franchise had hoped. Randle played just one game as a rookie before suffering a season-ending injury, and in his two-plus full seasons, the former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 12.1 points and 9.2 rebounds.
Unfortunately, the 22-year-old has seen his role diminished quite a bit in his fourth pro campaign. After averaging better than 28 minutes per game in each of the last two seasons, Randle is averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game so far in 2017-18. He’s playing in a reserve role behind the likes of Larry Nance, Kyle Kuzma, and Brook Lopez along the Laker front line.
Now that he’s clearly fallen out of favor, it’s time to start thinking about potential trade destinations for the talented young forward. If the Lakers decide to ship him out of Tinseltown, where might Randle wind up?
After a successful 15-year run, during which they made the playoffs almost annually and captured the 2011 NBA title, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in a position similar to that of the Lakers. Now that the glory days of the last decade-plus are in the rearview mirror, the Mavs’ brass has finally accepted that they need an infusion of young talent.
Dirk Nowitzki is still playing, but it’s clear that his playing days are numbered. Owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson tried to piece together a contender around Nowitzki, but nothing came of it. Despite the big German’s presence on the roster, Dallas has finally chosen to start rebuilding with an eye on the future.
They’ve only been in this stage for about a year, but the Mavs already appear to have some interesting building blocks in place. Chief among those is rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who looks like a potential steal from the most recent draft class. The North Carolina State product has already put together a solid highlight reel in just 12 games as an NBA player. The athletic 19-year-old is averaging nearly 15 points and 5 assists per game already. He has taken no time to get acclimated to the rigors of the pro game.
They don’t draw the headlines that Smith does, but Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel are two interesting youngsters, as well. Barnes drew rampant criticism as the “weak link” on the Warriors’ 2015 and 2016 teams, but he’s quietly looked like a nice acquisition in season-plus he’s spent in Big D. Barnes may never live up to his superstar potential, but he’s emerged as a dependable secondary scorer on the wing. It’s also easy to forget that he’s still only 25.
Noel is a more complicated case. He failed to get a big-money offer on the free agent market this past summer, and instead opted to sign a cheap one-year deal to stick with the Mavs. Unfortunately, he seems to be in Rick Carlisle’s dog house. There’s no denying Noel’s potential impact, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, but his minutes have been all over the place this season. Noel is averaging just 16 minutes per game, and he recently drew a “did not play- coach’s decision” against the Cavaliers.
With Noel’s time in Dallas looking like it may be coming to an end, might a Noel-for-Randle swap make some sense? Randle is a bit of a tweener in the modern-day NBA, but there’s still a place in the league for guys his size (6’9”) capable of handling the ball and bullying their way to the rim. It’s also worth noting that Randle is a Dallas native.
The Lakers have a glut of young power forwards, but no apparent long-term answer at center. Ivica Zubac showed some promise as a rookie last year, but he’s now stuck behind Lopez and Andrew Bogut on the Lakers’ depth chart. L.A. is desperate for a rim-protecting center, and Noel might be just what the doctor ordered on that front.
On the surface, flipping Noel for Randle makes plenty of sense for all parties. Randle and Noel each get much-needed changes of scenery, while the Lakers and Mavs get a couple of potential pieces around which to build.
Frankly, the Nets are going to be a serious suitor for any young player that hits the trade market. They already struck gold in acquiring Russell from the Lakers last summer, so why not try it again by swooping in for Julius Randle?
You know the Nets’ predicament right now. They have been the league’s worst team for the last couple of seasons, and their struggles can be tied directly to the disastrous Billy King era in the Brooklyn front office. King mortgaged the franchise’s future in an attempt to win with a core of Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, and Kevin Garnett several years back. That failed, and now the Nets are paying the price. They will not have their own first-round pick until 2019.
So, new GM Sean Marks is having to take a different approach to rebuilding. So far, we’ve seen that Marks is happy to take on decent players with hefty salaries in an attempt to infuse some talent into the roster. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, they say. This past summer, the Nets were happy to take Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll, earning a combined $34.8 million this season, off the Blazers’ and Raptors’ hands, respectively. Brooklyn also absorbed Timofey Mozgov’s bloated salary from the Lakers as a form of tax in acquiring a potential star young talent in Russell.
Randle isn’t nearly as pricey as some of these other players, but the Nets would still be more than happy to buy low on a guy like him. You just have to wonder what the Lakers will be seeking in return. The Nets have some interesting young wings like Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but it seems doubtful that Brooklyn would be willing to part with either in order to take on Randle.
We also know that the Nets aren’t going to be eager to deal future draft considerations, particularly first-rounders. The Lakers have to be looking for a first-rounder (at minimum) for Randle, which may take Brooklyn out of consideration. Barring a multi-team deal, or unless the Nets take another big salary in Luol Deng back, it’s tough to see a trade fit between the Nets and Lakers here.
The Deng angle is a possibility, but it feels like a longshot.
The last thing the Kings probably need is yet another young big man, but Randle would step in and instantly become Sacramento’s most promising young forward.
This team has a glut of kids, but few of them seem to be primed to turn into much of anything. De’Aaron Fox looks like the answer at point guard this team has been desperately seeking, while Justin Jackson may blossom into a solid wing at some point. Buddy Hield has also shown promise as a high-scoring option on the perimeter.
Willie Cauley-Stein? Meh. Skal Labissiere? He’s promising, but he’s not exactly on the cusp of stardom at the moment. Georgios Papagiannis? That was a questionable draft pick at the time that looks even worse just one year later. Zach Randolph, who is 36, is also on this roster for some reason.
The Lakers have their sights set on adding star players. In order to do so in free agency, they’re going to need to clear some cap room. If it’s salary relief that the Lakers want, then the Kings may well be able to provide it. Randolph is making a little over $12 million this season, and he’s slated to come off the books next summer.
Coming out of college, Randolph was a popular comp for Randle. Both are slightly undersized lefties with good touch around the bucket offensively. They’re also both beasts on the glass and capable of handling the ball.
Randolph is obviously on the last legs of his career, so dealing Randle for him would be a blatant move with an eye on adding someone like Paul George next summer. The Lakers acquired Lopez from the Nets because he’s a hefty salary coming off the books next summer. The line of thinking was similar when the team traded for Corey Brewer last year and signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal.
The Lakers’ goal this season is to develop youngsters as much as they can while building toward a spending spree in the summer of 2018. The team has just $51 million in committed salaries for next season, and they’ll be happy to offload Deng’s ridiculous $18 million salary, as mentioned earlier. If they’re able to find a taker for Deng, that number for next season is slashed to $33 million.
Because Randle likely won’t be back as a free agent himself next summer, trading him for salary relief at this point would essentially just be doing the player a solid. Going to Sacramento would give Randle the chance to audition for a potential payday next summer in an expanded role with the Kings, rather than languishing as a reserve in L.A.
Because the Kings are a divisional rival, though, this doesn’t seem like the most logical landing spot.
Phoenix is another divisional foe, but they have more to offer the Lakers than the Kings do. As is the case with many teams, the Suns are forgoing wins now in exchange for the hopes of winning in the future. Phoenix hasn’t made the playoffs in any of the last 7 seasons, and it’s all but a sure thing that that streak will extend to 8 this year. And there’s no end in sight.
The Suns haven’t nailed many of their lottery draft picks, but they do appear to have a future star in place in Devin Booker. Outside of Booker, almost anyone else on the roster could be seen as expendable, with the possible exception of rookie Josh Jackson.
Second-year forwards Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender have flashed upside early in their respective careers, but their playing time with Phoenix has been spotty. Chriss featured prominently for the Suns late last season, but his role has been far less certain to begin the new campaign. Bender played sparingly last season, but he has gotten more involved since the Suns installed Jay Triano as the interim head coach earlier in the year.
Would the Suns be willing to dangle either player in order to get Randle, who is a more proven commodity at this point? It’s tough to say. Bender arguably has more upside than either Chriss or Randle, which may cause Phoenix to pump the brakes there. Chriss is the most raw talent of the three, but he’s an explosive athlete that has shown potential as a shooter, too.
The Suns are also reportedly desperate to unload the contract of center Tyson Chandler, which complicates things. We know the Lakers have no interest in adding long-term salary, especially for an aging player that doesn’t fit their timeline. Unless L.A. wants to take a flier on a guard like Tyler Ulis or a pricey swingman like T.J. Warren, the fit here is murky at best.
Randle’s likeliest destinations are as follows: