The NBA Free Agency period has opened and signings are coming at a frantic pace. The Lakers renouncing Julius Randle’s contract led to the Pelicans swooping in for his services less than an hour before the Cousins news. The Pelicans have signed yet another former Kentucky Wildcat to the roster. Randle, 23, has agreed to a two-year $18 million dollar contract.
While NBA twitter and the basketball universe at large was busy imploding over the Warriors signing of DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans were using deft touches to strengthen the roster. The Pelicans reportedly had at least one meeting with Cousins, yet Cousins camp has leaked out reports he had no offers.
Dell Demps knows that it is better to buy in early than late on talent. In that view, signing Julius Randle to essentially a one year rolling contract at nine million is a far better value for both the Pelican’s short and long term roster construction than signing Cousins at just more than half of the Randle salary.
Julius Randle has built a nice reputation in his first few seasons, while Cousins value has been suppressed by his attitude and effort baggage. This soured the league on his value when Sacromento first traded him. The injury only served to all but demolish his market value.
The Lakers renouncing his rights had many pundits wondering who better the Lakers could pursue. Many an Angeleno were perplexed with the move to essentially swap Randle for Rondo at the same price. Just as Cousins felt spurned by the Pelicans, Randle chose the Pelicans over the Lakers over perceived contract sleights. Randle was looking for a longer contract, one that meshed with LeBron’s. The Lakers, like the Pelicans, balked.
When news of Randle’s signing broke, most eyes wandered towards DeMarcus Cousins, for good reason. Shedding Randle cost the Lakers a trade asset to be used for another starter, so signing Cousins into space made sense.
Randle’s signing is a shrew move by Dell Demps, especially as worse players get eight-figure contracts. The move was apparently also aided by one prominent New Orleans resident.
Randle uses his high motor efficiently and, with Davis on the court, should defend the larger front court player. Surely that conservation was part of the recruitment. Randle has the mobility to guard positions 2-5 when engaged on defense. On offense, Randle was just shy of triple doubles on several occasions and is capable of a 20.0 PPG,10.0 RPG, 5.0 APG against most teams.
Last season, Randle played all 82 games, a feat that Cousins could not match in the upcoming season. On a young and learning team usually playing from behind, Randle averaged 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He shot almost 72% from the charity stripe, but only 22% from behind the arc.
The Pelicans should have leads to protect. Randle will have his shots to avoid. Cousins took several shots a game he had no business even thinking about taking. He made a couple, but not enough to continue the habit. If Randle avoids just two of those Cousins ‘wtf’ shots per game, that is 164 more possessions for Jrue and Davis.
Gentry’s scheme should limit the amount of attempts from distance. Randle also will handle the ball less than Cousins. Cousins all too often was caught isolated, stalling ball movement. It could be argued that even when healthy, next year’s Randle will fit NOLA’s identity better than last year’s Cousins. The late season run and playoff series against Portland all but dictated another shift in playing pace and strategy.
Randle will help keep Davis’ minutes at center to a minimum. Randle’s development will dictate if he plays more in blowout as well, which is another way it is possible to reduce Davis’ regular season minutes. Cousins would not be on the court for games in doubt some nights and could not be counted on to work back on defense to be rewarded with a bruising matchup.
Randle, Mirotic, and Davis is a formidable front court. A couple of competent (*cough *cough not Ajinca) rotation big men and the Pelicans would hold an advantage over every team not rostering Kevin Durant.
Randle is capable of playing the old Dwight Howard role. As the only big with Davis and Holiday roaming open spaces. Randle should have plenty of opportunities to shine. If he falters, he will be traded. If he excels, the Pelicans will likely return to the playoffs. This is a wonderful team-friendly contract. Either way, Randle is opting out of this contract at seasons end. An injury complicates matters, exemplified by the Pelicans Cousins conundrum this offseason.
Seemingly every couple of weeks Randle would finish close to a triple double. As one of the best options on a bad team, Randle was the focal point of defensive schemes. His youth and need to prove himself should keep those ‘down’ and ‘off’ nights against weaker teams a rarity. The Pelicans cannot play down to the competition. Losses to weak Eastern Conference teams have cost the Pelicans the last two years.
It has also been rumored that Randle turned down a similar offer from the Lakers. Randle brings most of what Cousins offers, besides shooting range. Mirotic should be taking more three’s than almost everyone on the roster as it stands. Holiday and Davis should be in the top four. Cousins rehabbing at $5.3 million does not help the Pelicans as much as Randle at $9 million.
Randle should not be anywhere near the perimeter if the Pelicans are playing at their desired pace. If Randle is moving to the perimeter halfway through the shot clock, the ball has already stopped, and the offense has already stalled. Last season those were called ‘Boogie Possessions’.
Randle is one of the game’s premier young low post players and needs to be more than an after thought in the offense. Gentry has to get Randle involved in the pick and roll. As the Pelicans work through sets to solve a defense, Randle can draw attention and has shown he can pass to an open man. It bears repeating, he is healthy and plays hard every possession. Getting up and down the court should be the least of his worries.
Matchups will dictate whether Mirotic or Randle start alongside Davis. Randle excelled after the All-Star break. Whomever is first off the bench should dominate their second unit matchup.
While he could have perhaps gotten a few more nickels and dimes from multiple other teams, Randle likely found his best fit. The contract works out great for Randle. He gets to test the market again next season after playing with a more disciplined squad. With the Pelicans, he is getting a legitimate chance at showing he can play the Chris Bosh type of third wheel on a playoff team.
The Pelicans get a healthy body on a sweetheart of a contract. Starting a season with a healthy roster and no losing streaks has been an issue the past few years. Randle fits the second half Pels better for the first half of this season than a hampered Cousins. In lieu of a complete disaster, Randle will be of more value than his $9 million contract. Cousins would have been a far bigger risk, with perhaps the same ceiling, at a far higher cost. (C. Dodson)