Before fans were obsessed with a top-5 protected pick, arguing over Jahlil Okafor vs. D’Angelo Russell, or getting overwhelmed with excitement over the growth displayed by Jordan Clarkson, the main cog in the Lakers’ future chances was Julius Randle. After being the team’s highest lottery pick since James Worthy went #1 overall in 1982, expectations were high for Randle and he seemed ready to try and live up to them.
Of course, nothing really went to plan for Randle in his rookie season. He flashed his enormous potential in the 2014 summer league, but also looked a bit out of shape and was prone to tiring after long stretches of minutes. Byron Scott prodded him in the press with minor slights and digs, almost always noting what he wasn’t doing rather than offering praise for what he was. And then came opening night when, on a late game drive to the hoop during garbage time, Randle broke his leg, ending his season in the process.
Since then, Randle is still looked at as a core player, but he’s fallen a bit behind in the pecking order. Russell and Clarkson makeup the “backcourt of the future” and Randle, while a prodigious talent, may not even start ahead of Brandon Bass when the season begins. Some of this is surely lingering cautiousness by an organization that is still not completely over the injury he suffered last year.
As the LA Daily News’ Mark Medina reports, the team will “monitor Randle’s pain level. They will study how Randle responds to sudden stops and twists…the Lakers’ training staff will also calculate Randle’s loads and intensity. They will multiply Randle’s average speed, distance and body weight to measure his load. They will divide that number by Randle’s minutes played to measure his intensity.”
But, even with these extra measures or any sort of loss of ground to his fellow youngsters, Randle is a big part of the future. Byron Scott acknowledges this openly, tying his success to that of Randle, Clarkson, and Russell. We truly are at the dawn of a new era and the young players are the ones who will usher it in.
With the league in transition as well, it’s Randle, however, who I look to as the key to it all. Yes, Clarkson already has the 1st Team All-Rookie accolades and Russell is the flashy lead guard, whose combination of smooth game, laid back demeanor, and moxie make him one of the — if not the — most intriguing prospects this year. But it’s Randle at his size and with his skill set who has seemingly come into the league right at the right time to fit what he does best and, hopefully, what he will be.
We really are in an era where the perimeter power forward is a staple of every team’s attack. Notice I didn’t say “stretch”, because it’s no longer enough for this player to be able to shoot. No, the PF’s of today’s NBA also need to be able to create off the dribble, attack a close out, pass off the bounce, take a rebound off the rim and initiate a break, and still do all the dirty work in the paint on both ends of the floor.
Randle still has a ways to go to be able to have all these skills be staples of his game, for sure. But he’s on his way in that direction, trying to add the range needed to his jumper and, hopefully, working on becoming a better defender both individually and from the team concept. If he can add these skills to his already well developed power + skill game, he will be a load at all three levels of court and the prototypical PF for today’s NBA.
Ultimately, this is what keeps me coming back to Randle as, potentially, a transformative player for the Lakers’ roster. Russell & Clarkson play key positions and have roles which need to be filled on any team that hopes to be good. But it’s a swing player like Randle, the guy who can shift between inside presence and perimeter force depending on team need that has the ability to make good teams great.
Whether he can bring along his weaknesses while further developing his strengths remains to be seen. Again, he has a long way to go. But the tools are there and, for me at least, that has me as excited about Randle as any other player on the team.
Regarding the Pelton article:
ESPN has the Lakers pegged at 26 victories this year. It’s no small wonder that we are also bottom 5 in their Future Rankings.
– We are correctly ranked high in cap space and with our market as they are both positives
– We are raked lower for our draft as 2 of the next 3 First round picks are headed elsewhere
– We are ranked low for our players/talent. Our veterans are average and our kids are unproven and young — it is what it is.
– Our management is ranked low…
The management score is what is so controversial on this board. Again, if you perceive that the FO is either a victim of circumstances or is in the cross hairs of the natural ebb and flow of a franchise then this ranking appears extremely low and punitive. However, if you feel that management is responsible for bad coaching hires and poor personnel decisions (yes, injuries to aged players like Nash and Kobe should have been anticipated – no pass there) then management is ranked accurately.
The added drama of the sibling rivalry does nothing but support ESPNs perception. What team president (Jeanie) goes out of their way to do an interview (with ESPN) in the middle of the July free agent recruiting frenzy no less, to remind the head of basketball operations (Jim) that he’s on the clock and that if his stated goals are not reached she’ll fire him if he doesn’t resign.
FO supporters have to agree that this sort of dysfunction does not reflect the level of management stability needed to make the Lakers a top 5 NBA organization in the near term.
Craig W. says
Randle was presumed by the fan base to be the best of what was left in last year’s draft. Thus he was never really accorded any real respect as a player able to change a team’s destiny. He was too small for his position, couldn’t shoot well enough to draw people out, couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t.
Then last year happened and the maturation of Draymond Green changed the Golden State Warriors. I look at Julius Randle as a possible Dramond Green-like player in a couple of years. He will be the guy strong enough to enforce our will on others and facile enough to bring Lamar Odom skills to our ball-handling.
This year we should see some of this, but if we are being fair, we can’t expect the whole package in his – effectively – rookie year.
T. Rogers says
“No, the PF’s of today’s NBA also need to be able to create off the dribble, attack a close out, pass off the bounce, take a rebound off the rim and initiate a break, and still do all the dirty work in the paint on both ends of the floor.”
This brings back memories of Lamar Odom in his prime. I agree with Darius that Randle is THE player to watch this season. We know Clarkson has game. Russell will need a few seasons to get his feet wet before he become a real impact player. But I feel like Randle is the measuring stick for the team’s success (or failure) over the next couple of season. If Julius makes the leap over the next couple of seasons the Lakers will be well on their way back from the dead.
My dream is that Randle tries to pattern his game after Karl Malone. I see some similarities, both players have speed and strength, the combination of which creates a match-up nightmare. It seems like Randle’s biggest weakness right now is the lack of a dependable mid-range jump shot. He certainly has the body to be an NBA force.
Yeah Westbrook went fourth and every expert thought it was a reach. None of them thought he was a PG. They called him an undersized SG. They said Mayo and Bayless were equal prospects. You have to learn that these “experts” are guessing a lot.
Randle always got by with strength and athleticism. Now in the NBA I think he realizes that he also needs some skills and tactics to get to the highest level. Working with MWP is a good step. Developing his right hand, and getting some arc on a consistent shot would also help. He seems to have gotten into NBA shape, so he should be able to play extended minutes. With drives he should be able to draw fouls,and I agree he is the key guy in the Laker future.
Interesting piece on Jerry West and Analytics:
Agree with most on Randle – he is the key unknown as we move forward. If he is healthy and contributes we will all breath a huge sigh of relief. Randle needs to be ‘all that’ for the Lakers if the team is to shorten their rebuild which looks painfully long at the moment.
When drafted, I was a bit of a critic in that I saw him as a tweener and to me that’s not necessarily a good thing to be in the NBA. However, watching the Warriors excel with a high motor guy at the Four (Draymond Green) I began to think that Randle’s quickness and open floor abilities would be an advantage. Green average 12 pts and 8 rebs per game (in his third year) — if Randle matches that in his third year I will be ecstatic.
However, going forward the Lakers need Randle to be more of an offensive weapon. The Warriors can have Green average in the low teens because both Curry and Thompson are 20+ pt scorers. The Lakers may not have that option as at this point our backcourt only scores high on potential.
My only concern about Randle is his rebounding. Now the one stat that ‘experts’ say translates from college to the NBA is rebounding. Randle averaged 10 boards at Kentucky but has not shown any rebounding prowess during his two summer league appearances. Hibbert is not a great rebounder, at this point Bass will contribute 5 or 6 max and with the Lakers going small at the Three (with Bryant and Young getting most of the minutes) they will need someone to hit the boards hard.
I think that how Randle projects on the boards will indicate who should be his running mate at the other forward position. I think Randle could guard a three which would allow him to play with a bigger running mate, like a stretch Four. Such a Four would give Randle the room to play closer to the basket on offense.
On the other hand the Warriors best line up is with Green and Harrison at the forwards — who flow in and out of the Three/Four roles depending on matchups. This is why I am intrigued by the possibility of Anthony Bennett being bought out. I think he and Randle would offer the same Green/Harrison flexibility and production to the Lakers.
Interesting piece on Scott on SSR:
“More importantly, the Lakers proved last season they are not good at shooting long mid-range shots. They not only missed those shots but also gave up a pronounced number of defensive rebounds as a result of the prominence of that shot, while yielding a multitude of transition opportunities to the opposition.”
Interesting analysis on the defensive effects of the long 2 vs. the 3pt shot. I do hope that Scott comes around and realizes that times are changing and his old-school views are outdated. This is especially important since the team drafted a number of players with 3pt range capability and that should be developed. I keep hearing some of the new acquisitions to the team talk about developing their 2 pt mid-range game. Makes me wonder if this is their own goal or if it was encouraged and expressed by the coaching staff as something they should focus on. BS needs to be more flexible and adapt to the nature of the game/league moving towards flexibility in players, styles, shots, overall philosophy, and the makeup of the current team.
I am definitely not a fan of his coaching style, but am willing to wait and see what he does with this young core and how he develops them. All I ask is that he doesn’t waste their talents because of his stubbornness and pride.
One reason I`m interested in Holmes is his potential to play with Randle. He`s shown increased ability to hit the 3, is a good rebounder and can guard most 3`s and 4`s,something Kelly cannot do. Randle does have to prove he can do it on the defensive end,and rebound against the tougher PF`s.He`s said he can average a double- double,and the rebounding part will be the hardest to achieve. Maybe the fact that he`s now quicker and better conditioned will allow him to get to balls he didn`t make an effort on before.
Awhile ago ESPN wrote an article about under the radar 2016 potential RFAs. I had identified a number of those players I thought would be good fits on the Lakers. As you can see their availability has changed:
– Kidd-Gilchrist: Now signed an extension in Charlotte
– Harrison Barnes: Almost guaranteed to stay a Warrior
– Myers Leonard: With LAs departure the Blazers want him to succeed and stay
– Jonas Valanciunas: Signed an extension with the Raptors
The main unrestricted free agents, KD and Horford are not coming. We’re likely going to lose our draft pick(although I think we still miss the playoffs by a mile). With the FO intent on maintaining cap flexibility I don’t see how the current Lakers team improves next year. Of course the kids will grow and that should provide some organic improvement but aside from that I can’t see the Lakers being able to make a significant acquisition.
And no, I don’t think acquiring an unwanted veteran like Hibbert using cap space qualifies as significant. Do the Lakers really want him beyond this year? Probably not. Hibbert is par for the course with our current FO, he’s a hedged bet. The FO isn’t sure about him and only took him because he was on an expiring deal and he may help the team avoid a third straight franchise worst season in a row.
All the more reason why if Anthony Bennett becomes available I think the Lakers should pounce on him. We need talent.
I actually think Barnes is in real play. He turned down the money for the Warriors. Which means giving him the max will force GS to either resign him and be way over the tax once Curry comes back up or let him go.
Also Bennett has not played well anywhere he has played. He is not worth going hard after. Maybe he was just being used wrong or lost confidence, but to say that not getting him is an issue is a bit much. Lakers basically took the same flyer on Wesley Johnson. But there is a reason most teams are big on the Johnson, Bennett high lottery player who doesn’t produce after 3 years, they usually never become better than a bench player.
There’s an excellent, timely article by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports on the recent influence of Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace on Julius Randle:
It’s a very good piece and complements Darius’s insights perfectly. Well worth reading.
A Horse With No Name says
Great post, Darius. Very excited to see a lean, more powerful and more explosive Randle display his Lebron-like skills.
ESPN top 400 player countdown. Starting at 400, or with the worst players first. Kelly, Nance, JBrown, Black and Sacre make the list in the bottom 100. That’s 33% of our roster among the worst 100 players in the league.
Either ESPN doesn’t like us or we’re not going to be very good.
Loren. M says
First I would like to say Anthony Bennett isn’t a player you go hard to sign “Bennett” has shown nothing in 3 years, as a GM I’d rather have MWP to be a mentor in pre-season even if he doesn’t make the team. MWP experience is more needed then Bennetts mediocrity, you have to remember the Lakers have five Power Forwards coming into training camp; Randle, Bass, Kelly, Nance Jr., Holmes. Bennetts skill set doesn’t even fit what the Lakers want to do, he doesn’t even play Defense that we’ll he can’t shut down anybody even as a number 1 pick he is still not worth it my take on watching him since college and following him in AAU ball.
Loren M: Bennet has been in the league two years not three. If you want an honest opinion of his game — faults and all — read today’s Grantland piece on him.
Despite his rough start the conclusion was that Bennett has enough upside to warrant a look. The cost to kick the tires on him for a season is virtually nothing.
I don’t really value Randle as a franchise type of player or even an all-star. Talented yes but I don’t think he will even blow away Bass for the starting position.
Overall I like how the team is shaping up. I’m not betting on making the play offs this year but I think it could be close. Kareem and Wilkes have expressed their belief that the Lakers will make the post season.
I think Randle has the heart, hunger and work ethic to be a franchise player.
His potential is anywhere from drummond green, to lamar to zbo, to blake griffin to charles barkley or karl malone. I see all that in his game. It’s all up to him
He used to hit that jumper in high school and had great guard skills. Give him 2 solid seasons and i believe that jumper will be nba ready..ala griffin or ibaka.
When That happens watch out. I want to see Randle get the rebound and lead the break. That’s terror for opposing teams.
Although i admit clarkson should start, I’m a proponent at this point, to have him spearhead our second unit, as i dont believe his efficient scoring point guard mentality will be optimum whilst playing with kobe. Whilst allowing nick and lou to consistently play iso ball on the bench unit.
Put clarkson on the bench, let him run that unit. Once he’s double teamed on that pick and roll, he’d give lou William spot up jumpers..
Personally i want our lineups to be
Russell. Kobe. Nick. Randle. Hibbert
Clarkson. Lou will. Jabari. Bass. Black/upshaw
I can easily see russell and young avg 40% fg from 3s. Or kobe fg% on jumpshot increase drastically because kobe has never played with scorers on the wing. If Randle leads that break that forces 2 or 3 defenders to coral and slow him down which leaves young, kobe and russell wide open from deep or hibbert for an open dunk.
This siruation replicates in isolatiom plays as well, as not too many PFs have the foot speed or strength to consistently slow down russell without getting help..
I believe randle could be an efficient shot creator for us
Watch “Julius Randle Full 2014 PS Highlights” on YouTube – https://youtu.be/JSb-mXtFvmI
Watch “Andrew Wiggins Vs Julius Randle!! Full Highlights! The Match-Up Of Nike Peach Jam!” on YouTube – https://youtu.be/WYpwWYw7lvc
Watch “Julius Randle Wins STATE Championship! Scores 74 Points Total In 2 Games!” on YouTube – https://youtu.be/C5Gy0Nv0lZ4
Watch “Julius Randle Goes OFF For 40 PTS & 17 REB In The State Semi-Final!” on YouTube – https://youtu.be/aYCvCLISBxQ
Watch “Battle For The #1 Spot – Julius Randle vs Jabari Parker The Mixtape!” on YouTube – https://youtu.be/nE1B-PxRXV4
Randle is certainly ready and willing to be part of a developmental and transformational process, except we don’t know exactly what the process is, nor do we have most of the partners in hand to make any developmental process proceed very far. If this were San Antonio, the process would be obvious, and even the missing pieces would be well defined.
Here, recently, completely new pieces of a new jigsaw puzzle are regularly gathered together each year around Kobe Bryant as if they’ll somehow spontaneously fall into place once he really retires. Retire or not, another new jigsaw puzzle is likely to emerge again next year. Not a good foundation for Randle at all.
For Randle to be everything we hope he will be, we need a much clearer projected team concept in that crystal ball.