The Minnesota Timberwolves should seriously consider signing Julius Randle this offseason after his career-best season in New Orleans.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the Minnesota Timberwolves must get better this offseason.
The Wolves were recently eliminated from playoff contention, and with a 33-41 record, their chances to win the Zion Williamson sweepstakes are rather slim.
Changes will need to be made, including getting more production out of the power forward position next to Karl-Anthony Towns. And that is why they need to sign Julius Randle.
Randle’s play has gone quietly under the radar this year because of the Pelicans’ drama with Anthony Davis. At just 24 years old, he’s putting up career numbers including 21 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting the three at 33.1 percent.
The Los Angeles Lakers let Randle walk after his rookie deal expired last summer, opting to build around Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram instead. Randle played in all 82 games last year, averaging only 26 minutes yet still managing to score 16.1 points per game.
The New Orleans Pelicans picked up Randle for a bargain during the offseason when he agreed to a two-year contract worth $17.71 million, with the second year being a player option. Of course, a year like Randle is having now is exactly why players in his position angle for an option in Year Two — Randle is going to make more money as a free agent this summer than he was able to land last year.
Randle is the quintessential modern day NBA player that any coach would love to have. This season, Randle is averaging 14.7 field goal attempts per game. Of those attempts, 72.8 percent are within 0 to 10 feet from the basket, with only six percent coming from between 10 to 16 feet. The rest of his attempts are 3-pointers, where he’s shooting 33.1 percent.
Overall, Randle is shooting 52.2 percent from the field on the season, and has proven that he can score from all areas of the floor. The majority of the Pelican’s Davis-less offense runs through him as Randle has a 27.4 percent usage rate.
With Davis resting down the stretch, Randle has been the team’s best player and he’s absolutely tearing up the league. In 69 games and 45 starts, Randle is averaging career-highs in minutes played (30.5) and points (21.0), along with 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. The former No. 7-overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft has seen his PER (player efficiency rating) go up in four consecutive seasons as well: 13.9, 16.3, 19.9, and 20.7, respectively.
As Randle’s minutes have increased, so has his production. He has 5.8 Win Shares (WS), meaning he’s contributed almost six wins for the Pelicans this season. If we were to extrapolate this value, Randle’s .131 WS per 48 minutes means that if a team of five Julius Randle’s played 48 minutes, that would equate to 53 wins, which would qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference.
Taj Gibson ($14 million), Jerryd Bayless ($8.57 million) and Anthony Tolliver ($5.75 million) all come off the books for the Wolves at the conclusion of this season. That frees up cap space to offer Randle a sizable contract — something like three years and $60 million — that would be a big raise from what he’s making this season.
Randle would be the starting power forward between Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, so there would be no added pressure for Randle to be “the guy”. Robert Covington and Jeff Teague (if he opts into his player option) would round out the starting lineup.
Dario Saric profiles better as a complementary piece off the bench who can keep defenders honest as a stretch 4. The Wolves can hopefully re-sign Derrick Rose and possibly add another player or two on a veteran’s minimum salary to solidify the bench.
With his addition, the Timberwolves should have an impact in the Western Conference standings, and it would be a clear win for both parties.