It’s not often that a storied franchise like the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in the NBA Draft lottery, but this season was ravaged by injuries to most of their roster. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Pau Gasol all missed significant time while Kendall Marshall, Nick Young, and Kent Bazemore emerged as their respective successors. As many would imagine, this led to Los Angeles finishing with a franchise worst record of 27-55. To top it all off, the Lakers and Mike D’Antoni parted ways and now a new beginning commences.
The ping pong balls brought the Lakers the seventh overall selection in this year’s draft, and they landed, arguably, one of the best prospects in this class in Julius Randle. The Kentucky Wildcat freshman brings youth, athleticism, and interior presence to a thin Lakers’ frontline with many question marks. Pau Gasol’s impending free agency may spell the end of his tenure with the Lakers, along with Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman. The selection makes sense for all parties involved.
Julius Randle was apart of a Kentucky team that made a run to last season’s NCAA National Championship game. He averaged a double-double (24 on the season), with 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The Lakers were one of the league’s worst rebounding teams ranking 25th. Randle’s ability to attack the boards on offense and defense will be a welcomed asset to the Lakers roster. Second effort on the offensive end was also one of Randle’s strengths, as he converted on 56 putbacks on the season.
Not only does Randle possess strong effort on the boards, but he has excellent footwork to compliment his 6’9″, 250 pound frame. He uses up-and-under moves to keep defenders from blocking his shots, and exaggerated pump fakes get defenders off their feet while he explodes to the hoop. Randle is also an underrated ball-handler for a player his size, using hesitations and crossovers to beat slower bigs off the dribble. As mentioned, Randle’s body is far more unique than the average 19-year-old, lean and solid for finishing through contact.
Randle does has his areas of opportunity to improve. He finished the season shooting only 17 percent on jump-shots. In a league where more power forwards are stretching their game to the three-point line, Randle will have to improve his range. Randle is right at the average height of NBA power forwards, but he will have to work against the bigger interior players with length.
Despite some of the things that Julius Randle will have to work on, the Lakers should expect him to crack their rotation as an immediate contributor. His talent is as good as advertised, and falling to a team with plenty of minutes available is the ideal situation. The Lakers are known for championship pedigree, but they will have to use this season to develop what looks to be one of their cornerstone players going into the future. Expect Randle to be in the Rookie of the Year race, and put up some numbers that will make many NBA fans take notice of what could be the next great big man of the Los Angeles Lakers brass.