New Orleans Pelicans forward Julius Randle is set to enter unrestricted free agency after declining his $9 million player option for the 2019-20 season.
Pelicans‘ Julius Randle is not picking up his $9M player option for next season and will enter unrestricted free agency, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Randle is coming off his best NBA season (21.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 34.4 percent from 3-point range on 195 attempts).
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 17, 2019
In his first season with the Pelicans, Randle registered a career-high in scoring with 21.4 points per contest with a 55.5 effective field goal percentage. He corralled 8.7 rebounds per game with 3.1 assists and shot a career-best 34.4 percent on 3’s.
Last offseason, Randle’s rights were renounced by the Los Angeles Lakers as they freed up the necessary cap space to sign LeBron James. The Lakers abruptly moved on from the 6-foot-9 big man they selected seventh overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.
After producing the best season of his career, Randle is in line for a major payday in free agency. With that in mind, let’s take a gander at the most likely landing spots for the former Kentucky star.
3) New York Knicks
The Knicks had dreams of signing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in free agency. But all indications are that Irving plans to join the Brooklyn Nets.
Durant, meanwhile, is reportedly doing some “soul searching” ahead of free agency in the wake of rupturing his Achilles in the NBA Finals. The two-time Finals MVP will likely be sidelined all of next season. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that he was headed to New York, but his devastating injury may have changed his plans.
Regardless of what Irving and Durant decide to do this summer, the Knicks have $74 million at their disposal entering free agency. They could use some of that money to sign Randle, who is reportedly on their wish list.
Randle would slide right into the starting power forward spot for New York. Playing next to Knicks center and defensive stalwart Mitchell Robinson could be highly beneficial for Randle, who posted the third-worst Defensive Real Plus-Minus among centers in the league.
2) Brooklyn Nets
The Nets declined Rondae-Hollis Jefferson’s qualifying offer, freeing up another potential roster slot ahead of a critical offseason for the franchise.
Even if the Nets manage to sign Irving, they will still have plenty holes on their roster. They need reinforcements in the frontcourt as DeMarre Carroll and Ed Davis are unrestricted free agents. Neither player is expected to return to the Nets. Davis, one of the best rebounders (8.6 boards in just 17.9 minutes per contest) in the league, is said to be a “sought after” player this summer.
With an opening at power forward, Randle can join the Nets and become a big part of their future. Randle is a player on the rise and the Nets appear to be a team on the rise, so the two could be a perfect pairing.
1) New Orleans Pelicans
Although Randle opted out of his current contract with the Pelicans, his days in the The Big Easy might not be over. The Pelicans will need a big body to pair next to Zion Williamson, and Randle has already proven he can succeed in head coach Alvin Gentry’s system.
Randle ended the year on a high note, averaging 24.6 points and 7.6 rebounds following the All-Star break. He played well in tandem with Jrue Holiday last season and can reunite with former teammates Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart.
Above all else, the Pelicans have plenty of cap space after dealing away superstar Anthony Davis. Flushed with young talent and the ability to hand Randle a lucrative contract, New Orleans may remain the home for the 24-year-old.