The Nets have moved patiently around the edges of free agency so far this summer, re-signing shooting guard Joe Harris to a two-year, $16 million deal, then surprising more than a few fans —and Trail Blazer players — by signing back-up center Ed Davis to a one-year $4.4 million contract.
Now, the question is whether they dive in and go for someone like Julius Randle, the 6’9” power forward who may be the odd man out in L.A. The alternative may be to pick up smaller pieces ... or make a few trades.
Randle is the name fans and pundits are buzzing about. At this point, the Lakers have just enough cap room and just enough exceptions to retain him. As Bobby Marks wrote Sunday night, “The Lakers still have the $12.4M Julius Randle cap hold and can exceed the cap to sign the restricted free agent.”
The extended cap math is complicated but if the Nets or another team tender the 23-year-old a reasonable offer sheet — and there are only a few who have the cap space to do — it seems the Lakers would match ... unless, of course, they’re looking to trade for Kawhi Leonard or sign DeMarcus Cousins. What’s reasonable? Somewhere in the $12 million to $15 million range, to start.
There are other complicating factors beyond the Lakers cap space. David Aldridge of NBA.com said Sunday night that Randle wants out despite the opportunity to be part of LeBron James superteam that after Sunday night also includes Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee, Moe Wagner and maybe Brook Lopez, as well as the returning Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma.
“Julius 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,” said Aldridge. The Lakers didn’t exactly treat him like L.A. royalty last season, “yanking his minutes around” as our sister SB Nation site, Silver Screen and Roll, noted Sunday night.
But on Monday, Shams Charania had a different story...
Sources: Lakers restricted free agent Julius Randle hasn’t yet received an offer from L.A., but has excitement for arrival of LeBron James. Randle’s representatives and the Lakers are expected to speak Monday, hopeful of potential offer to retain him.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2018
If that fails, would Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka simply renounce Randle if they need the space to go after Kawhi? Seems doubtful. Might they try for a sign-and-trade in which Randle becomes a nice piece? Maybe.
Then, there’s the Nets cap issues. They need to resolve Dwight Howard’s buyout to do anything big. To make that reasonable bid or go higher, they need him to agree to a buyout of about $16 million on his $23.8 million deal. And they need him to do it soon. The gap between what the Nets want from Howard and what Howard wants from the Nets could be wide. If Howard is only going to get around the vets minimum from his next employer, he’ll want to retain all but $3 million to $5 million.
Will the buyout get done before all the Nets moves can become official until Friday, July 6? No one seems to know.
It’s also hard to tell how much the Nets like Randle. He had a great season, averaging 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds, garnering 28 double-doubles and one triple-doubles. He is not a stretch 4, hitting only 25.7 percent of his 3-point attempts (37-for-144) in his three-year career.
One Net would certainly welcome him. D’Angelo Russell and he were good friends in L.A. and Randle publicly defended him after Magic Johnson’s comments on DLo a year ago.
“Me and D’Lo obviously, we came in...you spend two years with somebody and kind of building that relationship and that young core that we had and that bond that we had over the past few years, day in and day out working together, it was tough,” said Randle.
Not to mention that the two have the same agent, Aaron Mintz of CAA. So do Allen Crabbe and newly acquired Ed Davis.
What about a trade? The Zach Lowe-supported exchange with Phoenix —Jeremy Lin for Dragan Bender or some other Suns big— may not be as likely after the Nets signed Davis. They neatly filled a gap with that more than reasonable signing.
Bottom line: things could change Monday or Tuesday ... or Friday when pens can be put to paper all around the league. As we like to say, “REFRESH!”