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 NBA.com):
- 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.
JR really concerns me after watching him for a full season. His game hasnt really progressed beyond what we saw at Kentucky. In college he was able to use his strength to dominate, something he was not able to do on the NBA level. He has really short stubby arms and smallish hands. Given as Anthony mentioned his total lack of a right hand and and range, his real value is in his ability to rebound and push. JR may develop into Draymond type but i found his defense lacking and his basketball IQ suspect. I am really curious to see what a full off season will show us after what was in effect his rookie year. Lets be honest we all expected a lot more than he showed us this year. He seemed to be rushing like a bull in a china shop on offense and a step behind or clueless on defense. Hopefully Metta can work with him, show him how to use his strength to leverage players on defense and i hope in his second year the game slows down for him because right now i dont see him as anything close to an allstar type.
Its time to watch some randle at kentucky footage, remember randle is still a nba baby.
We stold him in that draft.
Needs to develop mid range shot, passing on the drive, and team defense
anthony: nice write up n Julius. I see a lot of upside to his game and hope to see continued growth this upcoming season.
what is it this year? to me, he shaped all things the greatest…
Thomas Rickard says
One of the things that is often overlooked is while a player is missing a year it actually is setting them back more, last year was basically Randle’s rookie season but actually he was farther behind than that, skills and physical conditioning regress while injured, I think Kobe once that for every week missed it took 3 weeks of real game time to get back, while Randle probably learned by watching film it didn’t do anything for his skills, this is the year that should give us an idea of what his future might be.
Of the Lakers kids: Russell > Clarkson > Randle.
I’m not sold that Randle will be much more than what we saw. I didn’t like his handle and he’s very limited offensively beyond the paint. He is a good rebounder but not a good defensive player. He’s a one dimensional throwback player in an age that demands much more versatility.
Not saying the Lakers shouldn’t have drafted him. I’m saying he has a lower ceiling than what we need to be truly competitive.
J C says
I also see Randle’s flaws. He can be a black hole on offense (doesn’t pass), limited to tossing up shots within 5 feet and hoping they bounce in or that he can get the rebound, and his lack of commitment to defense.
But that was essentially his rookie year. Many players take two, three or four seasons to understand the game at the NBA level and then begin to flourish.
To average a double-double or close to it in his first season is still very special and spells potential.
A coach that knows how to teach team defense will help.
A coach that emphasizes passing and teamwork will help.
A team that doesn’t have an aging superstar with a historic usage rate will help.
I don’t buy the short wingspan knock. Plenty of very good players don’t have the arms of ‘the Greek freak’ and are still effective.
If Julius develops a reliable shot out to 18 feet, he could still be a very good starter in this league. Give him a little more time. I think the Lakers believe in him too, and that tells us something too. If he isn’t used in a trade, I think we’re going to see a lot of Julius Randle, and an improved one, soon enough.
Randle is 6’9, 250, and only 20. How does his game change as he bulks up from his “skinny” early years? What if/when this ox of a kid adds 20 lbs of muscle this summer or next year, with a reasonable improvement in his outside shot and already decent handle? Players that strong and nimble become hard to stop – Shaq, Barkley, Lebron, Malone come to mind. Randle’s short arms or average hands were not a problem in being essentially a walking double-double rebounding machine rookie. As he fills out with age and weight room, Randle will bully NBA players for the next decade just like he did college players one year at UK. I really liked Anthony’s writeup, but I thought this aspect was left out. The broader point is, sometimes is more important to beef up [pardon the pun] your strengths than lessen your weaknesses.
I don’t think more bulk is the answer. 250 is plenty to play as an enforcer type in today’s game. At 270, he would be going in the opposite direction of where we need him to go – less speed, more compelled to bulldoze his way to the basket.
Randle is 6’9, 250, and only 20.
Randle turns 22 this November.
Baylor Fan says
Randle’s bulk and ability to drive are very good foundations to build on. He can create space with his threat to drive and players will have to use their bodies to stop his drives. That can be a long night for whoever is assigned to him. He can work on his mid-range game and become an effective starter in the next couple of years.
gamin 88 says
Defense and a mid range jump shot would help him out a lot. He is very good in rebounding and dribbling the ball on the break, but he could pose a serious threat, if he ran the fastbreak and had the option to hit the paint to lay the ball up or stop and pop a mid range j. in the paint. He has got to work on his mid range jumper, no questions about it. Defensively, I think that the entire team needs to improve in that area.
Randle’s game has not progressed since high school. His strengths and weaknesses are the same since prior to the draft. — look at the draftexpress videos.
I know he missed a year but shame on Calipari and Scott to just roll the ball out at practice. Not to have Randle improve on his shot, defense and ball handling is just bad coaching.
Marlon Blodgett says
Julius needs to increase his concentration close to the rim to raise his percentage.He is not jumping over, going around or by people. his attempts are being contested by longer and more experienced players, but still he should be converting alot more chipies,as he becomes larger and stronger he will naturally create more space for himself that will in effect make him longer.1.Increase core strength to enable defensive intensity for the entire 24 and to improve concentration in the paint, will also enable body to square up to stabilize release points and concentration after fakes jab steps, spins and step backs to create space, And for mid range shots2.This is a full time Job, requiring full time commitment,if Julius is in a hurry to be great , Don’t burn any daylight.Eventually the lakers will be Playing in big games again and I want to see how this guy plays when the results are personal.
Clay Bertrand says
Nice post. The Voice of Reason speaks!!
These ONE AND DONE’s basically are spending their SOPH-SENIOR years of College playing in the NBA. They are NOT finished products or even semi polished like 4 year guys who are coming into the league at 23-24. These guys are not simply college level players who are graduating to a higher level in the NBA and stepping up one mini step. They are INCOMPLETE players altogether in many respects.
The missing parts to their games are not necessarily hidden NEVER to be found. The learning comes in much bigger chunks over the first couple of years as these guys mature physically and grow to become basketball players at the pro level instead of becoming basketball players at the college level and then graduating a level to the pros. In essence, they are skipping a few grades ahead. Their relative rawness is to be expected.
In his Rookie Year Randle averaged a double double playing in…..”BYRON SCOTT’S CONSTIPATED OFFENSE”……We all know this last year was FUBAR with Byron, Kobe’s Tour, etc. Yet an undersized tweener forward averaged a Double Double. Not perfect at all but also not too bad IMO.
I think that last year was such an atypical year for a basketball team that our assessments and criticisms of the young players have to be significantly tempered.
Let’s see how these young guys play when Luke BRINGS THE EX-LAX and we have a more modern, flowing offense with more movement and a better team culture.
Frankly, to me, the pointed criticism of specifically of Russell, Clarkson, and Randle about their poor defense is somewhat misguided. The NBA these days is about team defense. With fewer ISO players around like Kobe, there are fewer prototypical “LOCK DOWN” individual defenders a la Tony Allen. Defense is almost as much about SCHEME as it is about individual effort and ability. Rotations, PnR defense philosophies, transition D, and the shots taken that lead to transition D are all things that the GOOD teams are coached on. We need a modern defensive coach to install a scheme and get everyone on the same page on PnRs, transition D, etc. I wanna see what our guys look like under coaches NOT named Byron Scott.
I’m sick to my stomach that Luke Walton’s ultimate “DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR” could well turn out to be KURT RETREAD RAMBIS. Just because he was considered a gritty player doesn’t mean he’s a sharp defensive specialist ESPECIALLY in this modern era. His lack of success outside of coaching under Phil Jackson in LA is glaring.
We need to go outside the organization and not hire an old era coach for our D. We need a coach who is a Defensive guru type. Not just some coach we hire and say, “MARK MADSEN is going to be our defensive specialist.”
– If Philly selects Ingram, and the Lakers take Simmons, can he and Randle work well together, or should Randle be moved to improve the team?
@Dom, you mean what YOU expected. I guess you expected 20 and 13 i imagine. i expected around 10 and 9 so he surpassed my expectations. He played 14 minutes on his rookie season,14!! so as far as im concerned, he was still a rookie. He was a walking double double and if you watched the games you would had seen how many times he overpowered and bulldozed his way around the rim against bigger and longer opponents. I saw him do that hundred of times literally. He needs to work on finishing around the rim and on that right hand but towards the end of the season he was trying to use it more with mixed results but is encouraging that he is working on that aspect of his game. He also needs a mid range jumpshot and of course his defense needs to improve a lot, but last season’s entire team didn’t guard worth a crap so that’s something that can be adressed at both individual and team level. Overall im very pleased with his development so far and he is working in the offseason to correct his flaws. We should see improvement next season…
Fern, I hoped for balance, an ability to finish inside effort on the defensive end and a feel for the game. Stats are misleading when your team shoots an abysmal percentage rebounds are going to be there. I saw him rushing down the court time and time like a bull in a China shot, throwing a horrible pass, taking and missing a shot, or blowing a lay up. I just hope he improves in his 2nd year. I saw much more from D’AR and Clarkson their first years.
People don’t seem to understand that we need a center that actually protect the rim more than another scorer. Okafor “defense” was a joke, he is not a shot blocker nor a rim protector, can’t pass and is not a great rebounder either. He is a good scorer that’s it. We need defense and rim protection downlow.
A Horse With No Name says
All this nonsense about “hitting the weight room”, “filling out”, “becoming larger and stronger”–obviously none of you have seen the guy in person. He is a huge dude–right now! Nobody can root the guy out of the post–right now. His goal was to lose weight and gain strength last year and he did that. Anymore more body mass would be a mistake, and that’s why he slimmed down. Physically he is a marvel; a rare combination of quickness, speed and brute power. His lateral quickness and ability to defend on the perimeter is exceptional. This is why laker management remains high on Randle’s potential–along with his maturity and work ethic.
Clearly his skill set needs a lot of work. I beg to differ that we haven’t improvement. At the end of the season he was slowing down, making reads and moving the ball. This year is going to be key for Randle, and I expect we will see marked growth to his game. (All of the young guys are going to grow under Luke’s direction.)
Baylor Fan says
Randle is still an unknown. It is much cheaper and has higher upside for the Lakers to keep him and develop him before considering trading him. Now is the time for the Lakers to take the rebuild seriously and not just flip players for the sake of looking busy.
A Horse With No Name says
gamin 88: Nope, not happening. Okafor is a defensive sieve.
BCS: A hypothetical that will never come to pass.
gamin 88 says
As a Duke fan and L.A fan, I have to admit that you are right about Okafords defense. But on the otherhand, neither Randle or Okaford displayed an impressive defensive approach last season. In my opinion, Okaford is a more efficient scorer in the post and mid range, which are two areas that Randle hasn’t developed yet. I’m pretty sure that he will, but I think that Okaford’s offense is more versatile. I would play him at the four, and shop for a defensive center who doesn’t demand the ball as much. Either way I look at it, both players are talented, but they both need to work on their defensive.
Craig W. says
Since Okafor isn’t playing for the Lakers, I don’t really care what he does for next year. I will say I find Randle’s skill set more useful in the style of basketball we will be running – as opposed to Okafor’s – and therefore wouldn’t consider any trade that swaps the two players.
gamin 88 says
If you don’t care, why respond with the negativity. I find it ironic how much people complained about last years draft pick. DR>JO, now all of a sudden, fans don’t wont Okafor. It doesn’t matter what either of us want, GM’S decision.
I am cautiously optimistic about Randle because, even though everyone in the NBA has known his limitations since he was drafted, most teams cannot consistently stop Randle from putting up decent numbers.
Neither Magic Johnson nor James Worthy were very good outside shooters when they came into the NBA, and they were still successful for several seasons before they expanded their games.
I’m not saying Randle will BE James Worthy, or Draymond Green, or anyone in particular. I just think his physical abilities are things you cannot teach players. Skills (ball handling, shooting, using a non-dominant hand, etc.) are things that can be taught. That’s a lot more promising scenario than trying to get a skilled player who lacks dominant athleticism to be a viable NBA player (e.g. Ryan Kelly).
Depending upon whom the Lakers add to their roster, Randle’s NBA future may be not be with the Lakers, but I do think he’ll be at least a solid NBA starter for some team.
Michael h says
It appears that U.S Olympic committee has a higher regard for Randle then many fans do. Considering he was chosen for the select I think the value his potential. The select team is used to prepare the next generation of Olympians so they must see something in him. I personally see a player with a rare combinations of size, strength and quickness that averaged a a double his first year. Per actual minutes played Randle was in the top 5 in rebounding. And Metta compared his strength and quickness to Lebrons. His game is incomplete for sure but that’s the norm for a first year guy.
Lol stupid Celtics passed on randle
Simmons and randle together you gotta make it work, your not tradingg either one, rookies contracts are golden, we know randle can play with the bigs, only thought is bring a free agent big who can shoot outside, he becomes your stretch player on offense, sets screens outside, randle and simmons attack the basket, like i said you gotta make it work. The teams that challenge the best, play their own game and don’t copy, simmons is not your normal 6’10 ,245 player, he’s really fast, and runs the fast break very well, the bucks are gonna try the greek freak at point guard, mudiay who is a good point guard has no shot
Warren Wee Lim says
I am not very high on Randle. I believe he has a skillset that isn’t effective in today’s game, UNLESS he changes somewhat. And that’s something he can do, but he can’t change so much because that is his game.
He has great strengths, but I believe he is suited for the 2nd unit and just thrive. Not everyone can be stars. He has great speed for his size, he needs more strength to finish strong and not just evade his shooting hand. He rebounds like crazy and he bursts to speed. Walton can make him become a much better player than 4 years of Byron Scott.
If/when we draft Simmons, we don’t need (have) to move Randle but we have to explore.
personally i think randle is the best player on the team -he was a black hole on offense because on the rare occasions he got the ball there were under 6 secs left in the shot clock after dar/jc fooled around with an elbow jumper that got defended and then they kicked it out to him … the offense wqs terrible but i saw some lamar/draymond/barkley in him where he could get to wherever he wanted when he had the ball …. he will be a lot better this year in an offense that uaes him properly
@Anonymous – that makes Randle 21 for another half year. Thanks for the correction, but it doesn’t change the point that he’s superbly strong at his age and could get better.
@Horse – I stand corrected on phrasing it as adding muscle; my point was about adding strength, not girth, as he works out and naturally ages. I liked your comments, they kinda complete the article.
My guess is Celtics get okafor, trading out of #3 pick, philly would pick heild
Renato Afonso says
Not much more to add to discussion. The holes are obvious: help defense and mid range jumper, in that order. Both are coachable, so now it’s up to Walton to fix it.
When analyzing last year’s offense, or that thing we called offense, you must account for DAR, JC, Lou and Kobe dribbling the air out of the ball. Naturally, bigs in that situation won’t look for anything but their own shot…
Craig W. says
Renato put it very well. Luke needs to be strong enough to sit people who dominate the ball during possessions. That will be a key – and it will also draw our ire when our favorite player is pulled when they appear to be hot, but the team is trending the wrong way. I expect Clarkson, Russell, and Randle to be sitting on the bench some, when we think they should be playing to develop their skills. Also, I am curious what is going to happen with Williams – who I think will be a key player off the bench, along with A. Brown and LNJ. I doubt there will be a problem with Brown or LNJ holding on to the ball too much.
The anticipated game would seem to play to Randle’s strengths, therefore I expect him to work harder on his defense. I am really curious to see how Luke organizes the defensive schemes, as Randle has excellent lateral quickness and should be a good help defender.
LT Mitchell says
If everything goes well and our young players reach their maximum potential, this is my take on how good they can be:
Randal – fourth or fifth option on a championship team.
Clarkson – ditto.
Russell – second or third option on a championship team.
Ingram – first or second option on a championship team.
The problem is that Clarkson and Randal have the mindset of being number one options, even at their age (hopefully Luke changes that). If these guys are the number one or two options, even when they hit their respective primes, I don’t think that team will be contending for a title.
Minnesota already has two players in Towns and Wiggins who have the potential to be number one options on contending teams.
I hope I am wrong about Randal. His strength and first step are amazing. I’m just not a fan of his basketball IQ.
Renato: “DAR, JC, Lou and Kobe dribbling the air out of the ball” Let’s not forget Nick : )
Randle: While I don’t think he is going to be a perennial all star, I think we should credit him for steadiness, which is a trait DAR could use a little more of.
Craig “Also, I am curious what is going to happen with Williams” Yea – me too – but I think for a different reason : )
Kids: I have always used the word “youngsters”, however, I think we need to start tapering this a bit. JC is going into his third year, as is JR (yea – he was injured but father time does not give mulligans). DAR is supposed to be “the man” and is in his 2nd year. So by my count we will have one “kid”. That is the new pick. And he will be a #2, so they all need to produce something. No participation trophies.
Watching nba finals, do you think the cavs would still trade for kevin love, he looks useless at times, also Jeff van gundy and mark jackson are announcers do you think they are annoyed with the fact that neither is a coach
warriors looking pretty good – for a jump shooting team.
Craig W. says
The Warriors are looking pretty good – period!
R – don’t worry, I caught the sarcasm!
Just remember, 3s don’t win titles…
Baylor Fan says
The Warriors also brutalized the Cavaliers in the paint. Both teams depend on drives and cuts to the basket to loosen up the defenses. It is just that the Warriors do it much better. It is why I like both Randle’s and Clarkson’s abilities to attack the basket.
I love the potential of either Simmons or Ingram and put Randle in the same category. Hard work on skills,conditioning,and the right offensive and defensive schemes equals success. GS has depth and versatility which gives them many options.
Randle definitely has some areas where he needs to improve in. As other have said, most players don’t really start to “get it” until they are in the league for 4-5 years, especially these one and done kids. I’m not overly concerned about him. He definitely has some nice intangibles, but his lack of a jumper really limits what he can do as teams always play him for the drive.
I would also like to see him show off his playmaking skills this year. There were glimpses that he could be a nice drive and kick player. I’m hoping Luke’s offense will allow this type of development.
I was a very harsh critic of Randle when he was drafted. In hindsight I think Mitch got the best player available. I’d like to focus on what he needs to improve on.
I think what could be Randle’s biggest strength is his ability to put the ball on the floor and either make plays for others or slash his way to the rim. He has the athleticism to beat guys to the rim but, since he has virtually no right hand, opponents can take that away from him. If he develops that hand so that he can put the ball on the floor with it and finish at the rim it will be very hard to stop him from getting to the rim. If he starts having more success with that I think he will also start looking to pass the ball more rather than out of frustration try to bull doze his way to the rim. I think if he can make any improvement over the summer simply adding the right hand will make him much better.
Long term I would like to see him improve his jumper. If he makes that fix plus the ability to drive with either hand then, he will be very hard to guard.
I think Randle is a bigger project than many fans would like to admit. Skills are a lot harder to obtain then simply throwing a guy in the weight room. Randle doesn’t need to bulk up. He needs to add some skills to his tool kit.
Craig W. says
Sorry! Voice inflection doesn’t do well on the internet.
Craig W – true; I can’t remember how much info is lost in written vs phone vs being face to face but it’s a substantial drop off at each step.
Almost always, when it’s claimed that the old rules don’t apply, I get a little nervous (particularly during a bull market – but that’s another topic entirely).
In the case of the Warriors, though, I’m very tempted to claim the old rules really don’t apply.
However: the Warriors aren’t just a jump shooting team; they are likely the best team ever at shooting jumpers.
Perhaps even more importantly, they are an outstanding defensive outfit. In the finals, World Series, Stanley Cup or Super Bowl, this still seems to really matter. It’s one rule that hasn’t been repealed yet.
The Warriors thus combine excellent defense with an offense that’s several levels above excellent. And of course their offense and defense feed off each other.
So, when they are clicking, they resemble the Marvel Avengers on a good day – only without a bunch of dead innocent bystanders.
The warriors are a unique team and hopefully other teams are smart enough to try and pry guys away from them because I find it really is the whole in that team that is their strength
defence acts differently to a barnes vs say a roberson and it helps create spacing – plus so many tall strong 6’6′ – 6’8 guys who cut defend pass and shoot well … doesnt show up on any other team in the league