Earlier today we discussed how some of the quotes coming out of Lakers training camp had me wondering if Julius Randle may end up getting squeezed in both style of play and with his role on the team. Well, at Lakers.com, Mike Trudell had a great post today about the work Randle and Larry Nance have done this summer and there’s a quote which implies that Julius Randle is unsure if he will be a starter when the season begins.
So, we’ve determined that Walton’s two 4’s that can play 5 have come back in great shape and that it’s translating to the floor … now, who’s going to start? Who’s going to finish?
Last year, Randle started 73 of the 74 games he played, while Nance, Jr. was part of the starting five in seven of his 63 games. As such, the outside assumption may be that Randle will start again, but Walton hasn’t declared any starter aside from Lonzo Ball at point guard.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen – that’s coach’s decision,” said Randle. “We’ll see what gives us the best advantage.”
Since the day he took over as head coach, Walton has stressed the importance of competing. The fact that Nance was drafted only a year after Randle and has himself shown capable of being at the very least a rotation level PF, only fuels the competition at that spot. Add in Kyle Kuzma as another PF drafted this year and that position is easily the deepest on the team.
In other words, some uncertainty from any of the players not named Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram is probably warranted and natural. I mean, I can argue Lopez is a lock to be a starter or even that KCP’s name should be written in ink and not pencil, but there are alternatives to both players on the roster right now (Clarkson, Nance) who could make some sense in certain situations. Training camp is also only two days old, so any analysis — no matter how informed — is somewhat presumptive.
Of course, we also have to be cognitive of how things actually work. As I wrote earlier, Randle would be the only returning starter from the beginning of the season last year. Turning over the entire starting group sounds like a bit much on its face, but as Walton has said he’s looking for the right player combinations more than anything else.
In some ways, this should actually help Randle when looking at the other projected starters. Of the Centers on the team, Randle’s game is best complemented by Lopez who can draw his defender away from the rim on one end and can protect the basket on the other. Randle’s a good enough passer to help create shots for Ingram, Lonzo, and KCP and has enough shot creation ability to off-set the lack of isolation skill the backcourt offers.
Randle can also fit in well on the second unit (and probably handle the ball more on with that group), but in the big picture I think he projects to fit best with the presumed starters. That said, as he himself acknowledges, it’s Luke’s decision. We should know more on Saturday when the team plays their first preseason game.