One of the more interesting battles during training camp this year for the Los Angeles Lakers will be the battle for the starting power forward job between second-year players Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.
Last season Randle started 60 games at the position, while Nance Jr. started the other 22. But that was under head coach Byron Scott, who is no longer with the organization as Luke Walton has since taken over head coaching duties.
Walton has gotten a chance to see Nance Jr. play up close, as he played for the Lakers in the Las Vegas Summer League this past summer, averaging an impressive 9.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.8 blocks in four games played.
While Randle did not play for the Lakers Summer League team, Walton has seen Randle working out at the Lakers practice facility though, and according to Mark Medina of Inside Socal, he is impressed with the jump shot Randle has developed:
“He’s put a ton of time into his jump shot and making a lot more of them, but it’s a fine line obviously,” Walton said. “He’s so good at getting to the rim and pushing the ball in transition. He has such strength and quickness. But you still want to use that to your advantage in being able to rely on the fact you can knock down jump shots.”
Nance Jr. is more of a similar player to what Walton was in his 10-year NBA career, as Walton has been impressed with Nance Jr.’s ability to do things other than score:
“He’s a great passer. He has phenomenal hands on the defensive end. And he always seems to be in the right place,” Walton said of Nance. “He’s looking to make the right play before he’s looking to score 20 [points]. That’s something you need on your team. He’s a guy that makes those little plays that don’t end up on stat sheets all day long that make you end up winning the game.”
Who begins the season as the starter will depend on how they perform in training camp and the preseason. The Lakers report to camp in Santa Barbara on Monday and play their first preseason game on Oct. 4 against the Sacramento Kings.