As we get closer to the draft, it is anyone’s guess who the Los Angeles Lakers will select with the seventh pick. It’s hard to guess what the front office is thinking especially in light of recent decisions. We can only trust that they have a plan moving forward and winning at all costs is all that matters. There have been several reports that they’ve been shopping the pick, but until that happens, we as fans have to assume the Lakers will keep it. That being said, we can speculate who is the best fit for the team and if he is available, the right pick would be Julius Randle.
Most reports lead us to believe Marcus Smart is the frontrunner because he is an athletic point guard, who can defend, slash to the basket, and set up his teammates. That may be true and with the league going to a fast-paced, three-point shooting style, that is what we are supposed to believe. Contrary to the hype, those teams ultimately have not won the title. Smart may turn out to be a bonafide star — just as other players in this deep draft, but based on recent Lakers success post-Magic Johnson, a point guard has not been the catalyst on title teams. Just this past week, there were reports that Julius Randle needed foot surgery because his foot did not heal properly from a break in high school, but with his latest individual workout in El Segundo, he disputed those rumors vehemently by his play.
Randle’s vertical leap measured 38 inches, which is higher than Noah Vonleh’s — who is supposed to be a better athlete than Randle. That performance alone proves his foot is healed. Smart might be the sexy pick with his aggressive style and personality, but it is the front office’s job to pick the best player not just for this season, but for the future. There are several holes the Lakers need to fill this upcoming season and most can be resolved within the first couple of weeks in July, but at this point, the Lakers have to assume the only players coming back are the few under contract.
If you followed the past NCAA season, what you would find is Randle had a solid campaign. He is not as athletic as Zach Levine or Aaron Gordon, but his footwork and fundamentals are superior. Look at a player like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. They are as athletic as they get, playing the same position as Marcus Smart, but their style while exciting is also injury prone. We just witnessed a great example of that exact result fast forward a couple of years: Dwayne Wade. Fans love a player who goes full speed all the time, but the all-time greats understand that it takes different gears to have a long, successful career. Julius Randle is less flash, more substance. His game translates well to the NBA because it is not based on out-jumping the competition. The media compared him to a bull in a china shop in college and says he cannot do that at the next level, but that is only based on his current game. Almost every player under the right tutelage improves his skill set in their first five years in the league, but what is most impressive is where he is right now. Normally lost in NBA talk is present status versus future potential. Rarely do players reach the lofty potential put on them by fans when their biggest attribute is their athleticism. Over time, gravity rears its ugly head and when the air goes out of the sail, all you have is your ground game and that is where Randle shines.
Keep in mind that Randle played his college ball at Kentucky with other potential stars at a winning program. It is no fluke that John Calapari was recruited by NBA teams to be a head coach because he develops his players for the NBA. In Marcus Smart’s case, Oklahoma State isn’t a slouch program, but it is not on the same level as Kentucky. Consider composure as essential as athleticism and at times, Smart was a loose cannon emotionally especially when he shoved a fan in the stands. There have been success stories of highly emotional players channeling their passion in a positive manner, but more times than not, it takes a championship coach (few and far between, just ask Frank Vogel) to pull the reigns in order to control a wild horse. Randle on the other hand is stoic and that is an underrated characteristic of a young player. It also does not hurt that he is a big Kobe fan. As fans, we’ve been through three seasons where we have lacked enough Lakers pride to overcome our coaching deficiencies so having someone like Randle come in wanting to be here is a huge step in the right direction. Kobe is at the twilight of his career, but players who are hungry to learn and listen (like Nick Young last season) can benefit tremendously from the five-time champion’s wisdom and work ethic.
Take it from seven-time champ Robert Horry who stated Julius Randle is the most NBA ready player in the draft. The comparisons to Zach Randolph are both fair and favorable. Zach has never out-jumped any of his competition, but his footwork, willingness to be physical, and work ethic has carved him out a nice career so far. Zach’s game has produced longevity so far and that is where Randle is headed. Also note that only a year ago, Randle was the number two prospect coming out of high school only behind Andrew Wiggins. Of all the phenoms in college basketball last year, Randle made it the furthest in the NCAA tournament.
Randle is arguably the second best player in the draft behind Wiggins and if he falls to the seventh pick because of false foot rumors, the Lakers must select him as they reload for the future.
Lakers Nation Interviews Julius Randle After Lakers Pre-Draft Workouts