Archives For Julius Randle

Even though we told you not to forget about Julius Randle, not having him do much of anything basketball related since April can make that hard. We got glimpses of Russell, Nance, and Ingram at Summer League. We even got a taste of Jordan Clarkson at the Drew League. But nothing from Randle.

With the opening of training camp, that’s going to change. Soon we will get snippets of Randle practicing and getting clips of him scrimmaging. We’ll also get clips of him practicing his shooting. You know, like this one:

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Summer league was successful in accomplishing a few things. One was showing off the Lakers’ young talent and how the returning young guys had improved while giving us a first glimpse at the skill of the newly drafted kids. A second was allowing us to somewhat forget about Julius Randle.

I know. I know. This is an exaggeration. No one really forgot about Randle.

But I do believe there has been a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” going on with Julius. After all, we got to see Larry Nance, Jr. play really well before his hand injury. Nance flashed an improved jumper, an emerging “grab and go” game off the defensive glass, and a sharpening of his already strong defense. Nance’s development was happening in front of our eyes while Julius’ was going on in private workouts.

That is no longer the case, though. Randle has joined the Team USA training camp as part of the Select Team. He’s practicing, going through drills, and scrimmaging. He’s out there for everyone to see and is looking like an improved player. Or, at least he is in the short glimpses the public has been exposed to. For example, here he is working in one-on-one drills:

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Welcome to a new off-season series focused on how players currently under contract with the Lakers can improve their games from last season to this one. Whether they are young players or veterans, there are always things that can be bettered withing the context of what the Lakers want to do on both sides of the ball. Our second installment is on Julius Randle. 

Julius Randle was 14 minutes away from playing his rookie season last year. There were always going to be growing pains, especially considering the general youth surrounding him as he embarked on what essentially was the beginning of his NBA career. All in all, it was a pretty successful campaign, though there are obviously aspects of the game he’ll need to improve to fulfill his role on a budding core. Most notably among those necessary improvements: His handling of the pick-and-roll (from here on, PNR).

Randle is by no means the typical elite finisher one thinks of in PNRs. He’s not as long or athletic as DeAndre Jordan nor can he shoot in pick-and-pop sets anywhere near as well as Dirk Nowitzki. What he can offer, however, is ball-handling neither of the aforementioned prototypes do. To go with those skills, he’ll need to develop the level of decision-making and rolling technique Luke Walton can trust in PNR sets.

All too often, spacing suffered as Randle would roll either too slowly or in too close of proximity to the ball handler. D’Angelo Russell is very good at turning the corner on screens, putting his defender directly on his back with space in front of him. The result, unfortunately, is he would turn into space with his screener (in this case, Randle) standing basically shoulder-to-shoulder to him. Now, part of this comes from technique on the part of those partaking in the PNR, and some of the issue came as a result of Byron Scott’s constipated offense.

In that regard, players on the team improving from three-point range and Luke Walton bringing over some of his schemes currently on display in the finals might help Randle take a step forward on their own, but he definitely needs to improve if he wants that responsibility in the offense next season.

The stats speak to his inefficiencies (numbers from

  • Randle was used in 103 PNR possessions, second most on the Lakers to only Brandon Bass.
  • Those plays resulted in .73 points per possession, placing him in the 10th percentile throughout the league.
  • Randle shot 37% from the field and turnovers were the result in 10.7% of those plays.
  • Randle only drew a shooting foul 5.8% of the time. By comparison, Bass drew a shooting foul 20.5% of the time.

Those numbers aren’t good. Not good at all.

Now, getting better in the PNR often comes down to a number of improvements throughout his game. First and foremost, Randle’s decision-making must improve. All too often, the PNR would result in basically another isolation set at the elbow and, given Randle’s inability to shoot or do really anything with his right hand (more on this in a bit), he is fairly easy to guard over a larger sample size and with proper scouting. If Randle can make quicker decisions, he and the offense around him becomes much harder to defend.

As I alluded to earlier, Walton can aid in some of those issues with scheming. Randle catching the ball on the left elbow makes it tough for him to do much of anything. If Walton can plan for PNRs to end with Randle handling the basketball on the right elbow, where his strong hand takes him toward the center of the defense, Randle can more naturally drive with the intent to either score or pass with that dominant left hand of his.

Scheming aside, Randle spending time on becoming a more effective catch-and-shoot threat is absolutely necessary. His right hand has been covered ad nausea, but that doesn’t change the fact that without improvement there, Randle remains just as easy to defend as ever. It’s doubtful he’ll ever boast full ambidexterity, but he’ll need to develop a comfort with even trying to finish at the rim. Another trick he might be able to learn is the ability to gain enough separation with his right hand to bring it back to his left against NBA defense. Watch any clip of Manu Ginobli and you’ll get a good picture of this technique.

Randle has the tools to make all these improvements and if he’s able to add to his game, he makes the lives of all his teammates much easier as well. He heads into this season as one of the more important pieces to what the Lakers want to do, as many from the organization have spoken to. Improvement has to occur throughout the roster, but Randle’s strides are as crucial as just about anyone’s on the team.

With the playoffs in full swing and topics like the draft lottery and free agency pressing topics for Lakers’ fans, it’s easy to forget that this summer the Olympics will take place. And, with that, we will have another Team USA roster to discuss, debate, and watch take on the rest of the world in the global games. The top team which heads to Rio, however, will not be the only “Team USA” squad this summer. No, there will also be a “Select” team which is made up of young players who will scrimmage against the main group and get their feet wet with the National program.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, two young Lakers will be invited to play for the select team when they convene this summer.

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It has been widely discussed that one reason the Lakers fell in love with rookie D’Angelo Russell is that his combination of skill and confidence reinforce the idea he can one day be the type of alpha leader who carries the Lakers’ franchise forward post-Kobe Bryant. What is not talked about enough, though, is Julius Randle — the Lakers’ first lottery pick of their rebuild — also has some of these same traits.

Randle isn’t viewed as having the same skill level as Russell. His bully-ball style lacks the polish and smoothness that Russell’s game does. But do not let the raw physicality of Randle’s approach overshadow the skill level he does possess — especially for a 6’9″, 250 pound man.

His off the dribble work and open court prowess have been on display all season — be it on coast to coast takes or on moves like this one versus the Cavs:

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One of the reasons I am such a big Julius Randle fan is that he has the tools to one day be a complete player. He’s not there yet, of course, but most every game he shows hints of what he can be. A contested rebound, a soft finish in traffic, a smart cut, an off the dribble move where he moves like a guard, a smart pass. These flashes of fantastic play only keep you wanting more, to the point of sometimes being disappointed the entirety of his game isn’t always at his disposal to wreak havoc on opponents.

Against the Nuggets on Friday night, however, he really did put it all together. 13 points on 6-10 shooting, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists. He became the youngest Laker since Magic Johnson to notch a triple-double and joined Pau Gasol as the only Laker since 1983-84 to have a triple double with at least 13/18/10 in every category. Quite the company to keep for the 2nd year pro. Just look at some of the plays, too:

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For the season, the Lakers are still 29th in the league in offensive efficiency. Though they have improved a great deal since the All-Star break — they have posted a 106.1 rating, good for 14th in the league for that stretch — they have fallen off that pace since February 26th (103.2 rating since that date) when Byron Scott implemented a “new set” which has become the base of their offense.

Still, the 103.2 rating since the change is still good for 19th over that period and shows marked improvement over their season long numbers. One of the reasons their offense has improved is because they are running more off-ball actions which help promote side to side ball movement. Byron mentioned an impetus to the change was the analytics staff noting the team was near the bottom of the league in the ball changing sides of the floor (and in making passes in general) and wanted to rectify that.

Hence, a new set, more movement, and more passing. While opponents have surely been scouting what the Lakers are doing and, in turn, disrupting some of their actions, it would be hard to argue against the team doing better. It’s right there in the numbers and, if you’ve been watching, in little wrinkles which are showing up each game.

For example, against the Grizzlies on Tuesday, the Lakers ran a little flare screen action which set up a nice Kobe Bryant three pointer:

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While most informed analysis has moved beyond “count the rings” as a measurement of what constitutes success, saying we, as observers/fans/analysts, are beyond the line of thinking where results outweigh process would be incorrect. This, in many ways, is completely understandable. If the ultimate goal is to win, those who win should be lauded — no matter how they got there.

Picking apart the process of how a team wins can be a worthwhile endeavor. But, let’s face it, if you’re winning at the highest level the odds are that success is predicated on a well supported process. Talent can overcome bad process in limited samples, but over the long haul talent which is misguided will not succeed. Just as talent reinforced by proper guidance will, more times than not, see results approaching/at their most optimal.

That may not be enough to win at the highest level, but winning is hard. It takes some luck, especially when you consider lots of teams are really talented. Even with all of them achieving their maximum results, some are still going to fall short. There is only one team standing at the end.

This brings me to this year’s Lakers. This group, as a whole, is not super talented. They are also not achieving results anyone will recall fondly at any point in the future. They are a footnote in any discussion about success in today’s NBA because they have barely experienced any.

But success is relative. This team may not be competing for a championship (or even a playoff berth), but they are trying to find their way towards that type of success. And it starts with talent. These Lakers — these young Lakers — have some of that. More than some, I would argue.

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