The Return of Randle
One of the most devastating moments from last season occurred when rookie Julius Randle broke his leg in the opening game of the regular season. Randle had been the highest draft pick the Lakers had received in decades, and was the lone silver lining to the horrific 2014-2015 season. Losing him was crushing to Lakers fans, and it set the stage for another difficult year.
Now, after spending last season observing from the sidelines, Randle is back in a big way. During Summer League, his play looked rushed as he tried to cram in as much action as he could while under a minutes limitation, but now that the preseason has started we are seeing a completely different player.
“Julius is an animal. He’s the future of this team. He’s the future face of the NBA.” – Roy Hibbert.
What is truly impressive about Randle is the way he combines strength, athleticism, and versatility into one package. Kobe Bryant recently called him “Lamar Odom in Zach Randolph’s body”, and that assessment isn’t far off. Randle posses the ball-handling, passin, and vision of Swiss Army knife Odom, but has the strength and frame of bully-ball specialist Randolph. Of course, Randle also happens to be left handed, making the Lamar/ZBo hybrid assessment that much more valid.
During the 2014 NBA Draft, teams were concerned about Randle’s defense, as he isn’t much of a rim protector. However, he has been making up for that (and then some) with his agility and quickness, which allows him to switch on screens and stick with guards on the perimeter. He has also been picking up pointers from MWP, which makes him a nightmare for opposing guards to get by. As Bryant said, “It’s not normal to see a guy that big move his feet so well and have such quick hands, and then be able to push the ball and finish on the break, it’s pretty phenomenal”.
MWP's influence on Randle is very evident, great to see Julius fired up and digging in defensively https://t.co/Vz9geIw30z
— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) October 7, 2015
Teammates have been raving about Randle’s dominance in Lakers practices, and he was rumored to be the one player that GM Mitch Kupchak refused to part with in potential deals for DeMarcus Cousins that flooded the rumor mill last summer. Thus far, Randle has exceeded the hype, becoming the Lakers’best player during preseason play.
He still has to work to improve his outside jumper, but Randle’s return and development as a player has given Lakers fans plenty of reasons to smile.