“With the seventh pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select Julius Randle.” Those were the words that NBA commissioner Adam Silver uttered to the crowd and cameras at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Mitch Kupchak and company decided to go with the forward out of Kentucky – a wise move with impending free agents Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman likely to explore their options elsewhere. With Los Angeles’ size likely departing, Randle will be able to step in and receive plenty of minutes in his rookie season.
Behind Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum, Randle was ranked as the fifth best draft prospect virtually all year by many people. The Lakers are fortunate to get him with the seventh pick.
Standing at 6’9” and weighing approximately 250 pounds, Randle is a force in the paint. When catching the ball in the high post, he loves to face up his defender and go to work. Randle is very crafty in regards to getting to the basket and uses his big body extremely well to shield the ball away from his defender in order to prevent a blocked shot. His game doesn’t end there however, as the lefty is capable of stepping out and knocking down midrange jumpers, although he needs to develop more consistency in that area. Randle even showed off a little bit of touch from beyond the three point line in his workout with the Lakers at their practice facility, but don’t expect to see too many shots launched from that far out.
In his lone season with Kentucky, the 19-year-old averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game while shooting 50.1 percent from the field. Randle averaged a double-double despite seeing double and triple-teams the majority of the time that he caught the ball in any type of scoring position. The youngster’s eyes will surely light up when he sees single coverage from opposing defenses in the NBA to begin his career.
While Randle will be able to score effectively around the basket, Laker fans will also love his rebounding ability on both ends of the floor. The big man averaged 3.5 offensive rebounds per game as a freshman, leading to a plethora of put back buckets as well as free throw attempts. Randle managed to get to the free throw line for seven attempts per game last season as a Wildcat, converting on 70.6 percent of his tries. With that percentage, it is safe to say we won’t be seeing a “Hack-a-Randle” strategy from opposing teams.
Another dimension to his skill set that will make Randle a handful for opposing defenses is his ability to handle the ball. At times last season when the Kentucky guards were facing full court pressure, Randle was the guy to bring the ball up the floor even if he was facing pressure himself. He also looked very comfortable in those situations that required him to handle the ball. Learning how to put the ball on the floor is something several big men in the NBA are unable to do, so knowing Randle has accomplished that skill already is certainly encouraging.
Just like every basketball player, Randle has flaws in his game that will need to be fixed if he wants to be a lethal threat for the purple and gold. He has all the tools to be successful on the block, but his post game still needs polishing. In post-up situations last season, he shot just 39.3 percent — well below the average of other NBA Draft prospects in this category. Part of the reason for his inefficiency in the post is due to his inept right hand. It’s no secret that Randle wants to go left in order to get the ball in his dominant hand.
Another area that has severe room for improvement is his tendency to turn the ball over. Learning how to pass out of double teams will be the key to erasing this flaw, considering Randle simply forced the issue way too much last season, putting himself in bad positions offensively. However, the number one question mark about him is how effective he will be against bigger and longer defenders in the NBA. A lot of his points in college came from overpowering his defender, something he won’t be able to do as much now.
It was reported recently that Randle would need surgery to repair a foot injury, but he refuted that report on Twitter the day after it came out. Now, all signs indicate that his most recent foot injury is no longer an issue.
The encouraging thing about the shortcomings in Randle’s game is the fact that they are seemingly all correctable. If he puts in the time and effort, expect a lot of those kinks to be ironed out. Ultimately, what 19-year-old doesn’t have weaknesses in his game that need to be improved?
The most popular comparison to Randle is the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph. The Memphis big man is also left-handed and a handful down low, using his big body to bully his way into scoring positions. The two players are similar in a multitude of ways, but Randle has the clear advantage in speed, quickness and agility. He surprised a lot of people when he displayed a 38 inch maximum vertical at the Lakers practice facility.
Outside of someone like LeBron James, not many guys have the combination of size and agility that Randle possesses. This combo along with a 7’0″ wingspan makes him a solid defender as he is able to stay in front of his man and contest shots well. He won’t be the type of player to anchor a defense by continuously swatting shots at the rim, but Randle will be adequate on the defensive end.
Time will eventually tell how valuable of a pick he is at number seven, but for now Laker fans should be very excited about the newest member of the team. All comparisons aside, Julius Randle is equipped with an abundance of talent and all the tools necessary to be a successful player in the NBA. The promising prospect looks to be an important building block to the future of the franchise.
Lakers Forward Julius Randle First Phone Conference