There are a number of questions that face the Los Angeles Lakers this season. Who should start at power forward is one of them.
Forwards Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle will suit up in the same jersey and play for the same franchise; however, between now and training camp they’re far from being on the same team. When the Lakers drafted Randle with the seventh pick in the draft, most (including Randle) thought they found their starting power forward for the upcoming season.After the Lakers won the waiver bidding war (or battle) for Boozer, the 12-year veteran has different plans in mind. Boozer knows he’ll be first on the floor, and for once in a very long time he’s right.
Randle believes he can be Rookie of the Year for the 2014-15 season, there’s only that small question of the amount of minutes he’ll receive. He’ll need to play at least two-thirds of each quarter to make an impact at his position and lead the rookie ladder.
With Boozer and Ed Davis competing for time on the hardwood, Randle’s facing an uphill battle for seeing enough burn every night.
All five previous rookies of the year have played more than 30.5 minutes a game, with most anywhere between 34.5 (Michael Carter-Williams) and Damian Lillard at 38.6 minutes played per game. A positive sign for Randle is that the player who averaged the lowest total of 30.5 minutes was Kyrie Irving.
By coincidence, the Lakers new head coach Byron Scott was the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach during Irving’s rookie campaign.
However Kyrie Irving’s backup at the time was Ramon Sessions — not much of a battle on the depth chart. Irving was the Cavs’ only choice as starter.
In the case of Randle, the Lakers have options – most of which point to him coming off the pine.
Both Boozer and Randle have serious personal vendettas. Boozer is eager to dispel the naysayers who believe his best years are behind him.
Randle is anxious to prove his talent should’ve resulted in him being drafted higher. Noble ambition from both, although certainly Scott and the Lakers front office would prefer their sights to be focused solely on a “team” championship.
I digress; sports fans and writers alike would have much less to talk about towards the end of the season without the individual award races. It’s naïve to hope for young players of Randle’s caliber to ignore them.
The bigger picture doesn’t set in for most players a few years into their career, once the individual accolades become mentioned less.
Boozer’s career minutes per game average is 31.9, and while he’s coming off his lowest mpg total (28.2) since his rookie season where he averaged 25.3 minutes, the Lakers will most likely seek to keep his action on the floor parallel to his career averages. He’s not the upgrade the Lakers were looking for after Pau Gasol bolted for the Chicago Bulls; however, he’s serviceable and a decent pairing with (what’s rumored to be) a healthy Kobe Bryant.
Stephen Curry is the only player in the last five draft picks selected seventh overall to average more than 35 minutes a game. All other rookies averaged close to 26 minutes a game.
Randle will be no exception. He’ll average around 25 minutes a game with the possibility of pushing Boozer to center at times in order for the two to work in tandem.
Deciding who should start based upon ambition, Julius Randle wins hands down. However, the debate of what’s best for the team and Randle, relegation to the second might be what’s best for the young stud.
In summer league action Randle had the tendency to leap before thinking (a common rookie mistake). While the NBA’s pace of play is faster and more physical, rookies typically attempt to measure up athletically while intelligence is usually left in the locker room.
Randle’s very effective scoring on the low block, has an insanely quick first step and is one of the better passing bigs the Lakers have had since Lamar Odom.
However, the aforementioned tendency to leap without looking can be a detriment to Randle. He might be able to back down defenders or beat them off the dribble, but when he meets defensive big men like Joakim Noah, DeAndre Jordan or Serge Ibaka at the rim, Scott’s going to look down the bench for a higher basketball IQ.
Randle’s good summer league showing encouraged Scott to be open-minded when asked who would start at power forward. He claims to want his best players on the floor regardless of experience, and Scott’s publicly said that Randle can have the job if he beats all other forwards on the depth chart.
Propaganda to say the least from Scott, and although Boozer isn’t the hot topic he once was, he’s still a veteran with greater shooting touch, passing ability, poise and intelligence than Randle. There’ll be a day where Randle surpasses all of what Boozer has done in his career; however, for the moment being a starter and Rookie of the Year doesn’t seem probable.
It might be in the Lakers’ best interest to start Boozer if they’re fans of history. Undoubtedly Randle will be a Rookie of the Year candidate should he receive adequate minutes.
Out of the last 10 Rookie of the Year award winners, only Derrick Rose performed in the playoffs his first season. The Lakers can’t get back to title contention by missing the playoffs.
Advice for Randle … learn. Perform when the opportunity arises. Achieve, in that order.