Summer league was successful in accomplishing a few things. One was showing off the Lakers’ young talent and how the returning young guys had improved while giving us a first glimpse at the skill of the newly drafted kids. A second was allowing us to somewhat forget about Julius Randle.
I know. I know. This is an exaggeration. No one really forgot about Randle.
But I do believe there has been a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” going on with Julius. After all, we got to see Larry Nance, Jr. play really well before his hand injury. Nance flashed an improved jumper, an emerging “grab and go” game off the defensive glass, and a sharpening of his already strong defense. Nance’s development was happening in front of our eyes while Julius’ was going on in private workouts.
That is no longer the case, though. Randle has joined the Team USA training camp as part of the Select Team. He’s practicing, going through drills, and scrimmaging. He’s out there for everyone to see and is looking like an improved player. Or, at least he is in the short glimpses the public has been exposed to. For example, here he is working in one-on-one drills:
— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) July 18, 2016
And here he is pulling the trigger on a long jumper in a scrimmage setting:
Oh, and here he is running a nice P&R with D’Angelo Russell:
I understand the caveats. These are short clips and really don’t show us much. Especially when considering these are controlled practice environments and not actual games.
But, I will say, these are things Randle will need to show during training camp, the preseason, and regular season this year. And the fact that he is showing them now — even if just in practice — heartens me and offers encouragement. Especially since some of these things — especially the confidence in taking the open jumper and the screen setting + hard rolls to the rim — are things we have noted he could improve on.
While Russell and Ingram — the two players selected #2 overall in their respective drafts — are most often referred to as the future of the Lakers, Randle should not be forgotten or dismissed. He remains super talented and possesses a unique skill-set for a player of his size and strength. We all understand improvement is needed, but at just 22 years old, I am a firm believer we will see strides made this season.
Lastly, while I truly believe in the potential of Russell and Ingram and think they can be a duo who propels the organization forward, it is Randle who I think can elevate the Lakers’ young core from potentially “great” to potentially “special”. I know I am higher on Randle than some, but when he really finds his game I see him as an ultra-productive PF who possesses an inside game with perimeter skills. Players with these skill-sets are just so rare and offer the type of positional versatility which enhances team building.
We will see if he can ever fulfill this potential, but some of the flashes of improvement this summer are a good start.