After a strong few games to start to the season, Julius Randle’s effectiveness has been as up and down as you might expect from a 20 year old player who, while technically in his 2nd season, is essentially a rookie. Players at his age rarely come into the league and dominate, instead they rely on the best parts of their game to try to work their way through and hope it is enough to remain effective against an unforgiving league that feasts on players’ weaknesses.
Randle is no different, using his quick first step and off the dribble work to get into the paint where he can finish over, around, and through opponents. Some nights, this works wonderfully. Other nights, especially when facing disciplined defenders with length, not as much. Based on this early trend, the obvious next steps to improving his chances against defenses loading up on his drives is to develop a reliable enough jumpshot to make defenders think twice about sagging off him to wall off the paint.
To Randle’s and the Lakers’ credit, they understand this quite well and are formulating a plan to do just that. From the OC Register’s Bill Oram:
Next summer Randle will be asked to unlearn the shot he has always had and start focusing on things as fundamental as forming an “L” with his elbow.
“I’m just not sure if he knows how much work it’s going to take to do it,” Murray said.
Randle said his jump shot is more or less the one that first took shape when his playing career began in youth leagues in suburban Dallas.
“It was just learned everywhere I’ve gone,” Randle said. “I haven’t done anything where I’ve changed my shot dramatically. Little things, getting rotations on the ball, getting lift, legs, all that stuff.”
If Murray is successful with his renovation project, Randle’s wild jumper will be replaced with a carefully constructed shot. The Lakers believe it could make Randle one of the most versatile forwards in the NBA and a potential All-Star.
As Oram cites in the earlier part of his article (which is detailed and very much worth your time), the Lakers coaches and analytics team has data showing that Randle does good work with his jumper off the dribble, but his catch and shoot attempts or jumpers taken from a standstill when his man plays off him are lacking. To be the best version of himself, Randle will need to develop this part of his game.
As noted, though, this will take a ton of work. When I watch Randle shoot, I see a quick motion that has a slight hitch at the top of his release. There are times where he looks to be aiming his shot rather than shooting it with one clean, fluid motion. Breaking down this motion and rebuilding it isn’t a small task, but it can be done. The Lakers coaches cite Blake Griffin and Karl Malone as examples, but there are more littered throughout the history of the league.
The good news is that Randle is known to be a hard worker who takes to what he is being taught. If he can grasp the nuance of an improved shooting form, he and the Lakers will reap major rewards in the form of made shots or tighter defensive pressure which will open up more driving lanes. For now, though, Randle will continue to try to make incremental improvements and live off the strength of his ability to get to his spots off the dribble and finish in the paint.