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:
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 26, 2016
I think what makes me most happy about the achievement is that it really is a reward for the hard work Randle puts in. Over the course of the season that improvement has been on display in the form of improved numbers as each month passes — especially shooting percentage — but also in subtleties to how he goes about his business on the floor. He is learning how to slow down, recognize situations, and then make the play in front of him rather than try to bull his way into a play that isn’t really there.
Does he still not make every pass I wish he would? Does he still have tunnel vision when looking to attack the rim? Does not always see plays ahead of time, passing to players who are already open rather than leading them into open space? Yes, yes, and yes. But, I have hopes he’ll continue to grow where these habits are nearly eliminated from his game.
Still, even though he’s got a ways to go, this triple-double is reflective of what’s possible. That he has the skills to be a playmaker for others. That he can play at the top of the floor and be a trigger man for the team’s offense. That he can be a willing passer. These are not small things. Especially for a player who is built like an ox and moves as well as he does. A player who has these abilities, in the body he does, with the attack mindset he has, and the drive to be great that he possesses, has the potential to be something special.