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NBA Free Agency Update on Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel and DeMarcus Cousins

The latest on three former Kentucky bigs and current NBA free agents.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


Boy, a lot can change in a day.

The Lakers landed Rajon Rondo on a one-year deal, while Julius Randle is heading to the Pelicans. It also looks like the Lakers are a serious threat for DeMarcus Cousins.

Finally, Nerlens Noel has agreed to a two-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Quite the day for former Wildcats in the NBA.

Three of John Calipari’s former big men at Kentucky are in free agency this summer, and each of them is dealing with a unique situation.

Julius Randle is currently a restricted free agent, DeMarcus Cousins is currently an unrestricted free agent in high demand, and Nerlens Noel is currently an unrestricted free agent in not-such-high demand.

For Randle, he’s currently a restricted free agent because the Lakers extended a $5.6 million qualifying offer to him last week. If he declines the offer, other teams can outbid the Lakers, but at the end of the day, if Los Angeles wants to keep him all they have to do is match the competing bids. The latest development, though, is that Randle might not want to return to the Lakers.

In a report from Silver Screen and Roll, Anthony Irwin quotes NBA insider David Aldridge as having said that Randle wants out.

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.”

Randle made his presence felt for the Lakers last year, leading them in scoring and rebounds, and greatly improved his free agency value in the process. There will be interest in Randle from other teams, and if this report turns out to be true, the Lakers may decide not to match.


Ignore all that (maybe), because with the signing of LeBron James, Randle’s outlook on staying with the Lakers appears to have changed, according to Shams Charania.

For Cousins, he’s in a weird spot this summer, because he’s being overshadowed by Paul George and LeBron James. In most summers, he’d be one of the most sought-after free agents, if not the most sought-after free agent. But in addition to being overshadowed, he’s currently recovering from an Achilles injury and his status for next year is uncertain.

So the market is there for Cousins, but it’s uncertain. The Lakers have interest, and I’m sure their new superstar LeBron James would like to play alongside Cousins. But they paid Kentavious Caldwell-Pope big money and they likely don’t have the cap room for Cousins anymore.

That makes it increasingly likely that the former Wildcat will re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans and then becomes part of a sign-and-trade.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported that as a “longshot” possibility with the Washington Wizards.

The idea of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins reuniting would be terrifying for opponents, but if the odds of that aren’t great, it means the most likely result of all this is Cousins returns to New Orleans to continue playing with Anthony Davis.

The third of the bigs on the market is Noel, who had a tumultuous season with the Dallas Mavericks and doesn’t quite have the big-money market he was hoping for.

Shams Charania has reported that Noel has narrowed his list to the Wizards, Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s also been interest from the Pelicans, Charania said.

The Wizards would likely be the best fit for Noel. The Thunder have one of the most reliable and consistent centers in the league in Steven Adams and the Lakers are looking for a bigger, more veteran name.

Washington doesn’t have a real shot at any bigger-name centers (unless they work out that Cousins sign-and-trade), and Noel could carve out a role for himself by meeting a team need.

It’s Noel’s best option if he wants a good shot at revitalizing his career.

Update on Noel

Noel has signed a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder since we originally posted this. You can read more on that here.

What do you think will happen to these former Kentucky Wildcats?