Archives For Julius Randle

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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Frustrations mount when a team has lost 45 of its 56 games. When a team loses at that rate, there are many issues to point to and the Lakers are no different. I have maintained, however, that once it was abundantly clear this team would not win at a level which would match some of the preseason rhetoric issued by those in charge, fans would have been pacified if the young players were showcased while playing a more aesthetically pleasing style.

This, though, has not necessarily been the case. Yes, the trio of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle have gotten plenty of burn. Not at the rate which many would like, but none have been buried on the bench either. We can argue about who is starting and/or who is closing — which are worthwhile discussions — but all are playing at least half the game and getting at least enough minutes to show off what they are capable of.

The problem is, they’re just not doing it together as a group. Take, for example, Friday night’s game against the Spurs.

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The Lakers lost their 6th straight game and second in two nights on Saturday, falling to the Blazers 121-103 in Portland. While there were couple of good individual performances on offense, the team, as a whole, played poorly on both sides of the floor. This isn’t new for a team which ranked 29th and 30th (last) in the league in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively, heading into the contest.

What was new, however, was that Kobe Bryant took a break from the feel-good vibes of his retirement farewell tour to reportedly voice his displeasure about the loss and the team’s poor defense to his teammates during and after the game. Mark Medina of the LA Daily News has the report:

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Twelve games ago Byron Scott decided he wanted to shake up his starting lineup. The move was a controversial one as he demoted Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell — the two players most considered cornerstones of the team’s rebuild and future — from the ranks of the starters to reserves. The young players have said all the right things, but when pressed have expressed a desire to start (at least Russell has – Randle has taken the “control what you can control” approach with the media).

With the change now 12 games deep and exactly three weeks old, now is as good a time as any to take stock and look at some of the numbers and trends which have emerged since the switch. Please note that while Randle has been a reserve for all 12 games, he has missed a contest with a sore ankle and that Russell did start two of the 12 contests while Jordan Clarkson sat out with his own ankle issue.

With that, let’s dig into some numbers:

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