Julius Randle could end up being the best player to be taken in the 2014 NBA Draft. His athleticism and amazing footwork were enough to lead the Kentucky Wildcats to last season’s NCAA national championship game. Randle will join a Los Angeles Lakers team that is usually riddled with high expectations. Their deep tradition of putting elite players on the floor nightly and filling the arena with celebrities creates an exciting mystique.
It appears that the Lakers are in on the road to rebuilding after last year’s 27-55 record (franchise-worst) and questions surrounding Kobe Bryant’s health. Randle will be front-row and center of the new era in which the Lakers will enter. As their first lottery selection since Andrew Bynum, Randle will be tasked with giving contributions as soon as possible. The better path to take may be carving a niche as a reserve first.
Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson are two of the biggest names in Lakers history. The two players were both acquired at young ages, and have become Laker lifers. Julius Randle is a key part of the Lakers future, but the responsibility of carrying the same franchise torch is yet to be known. Los Angeles is proceeding with caution, providing as little pressure as possible for Randle. The Lakers have established depth at Randle’s power forward position.
Ed Davis and Carlos Boozer were added to the Lakers roster during the free agency period. Despite an underwhelming campaign with the Chicago Bulls, Boozer is likely to be a starter this season. Davis is still seeking consistent minutes and production as a relatively young player. Many fans expected Randle to succeed Pau Gasol after his departure to the Chicago Bulls, but new additions will reduce his minutes. One of the better scenarios by playing behind Boozer is a chance for Randle to prepare for the 82-game NBA schedule. Davis and Randle may become complimentary to each other in the frontcourt. Building chemistry between the two could be good for the future.
With the Lakers working Kobe Bryant back into their gameplan, Randle will have a chance to establish himself as less of a focal point as usual. At Kentucky, he led the Wildcats with 15.8 points per game and saw double teams on a nightly basis. Having other offensive threats on the floor will allow Randle to expand on all facets of his game. If Bryant can bounce back from his knee injury, then Randle could prove to be a formidable weapon when utilized alongside the 18-year veteran.
The Lakers can continue to use their bench for occasional injections of offense. Last season they averaged over 40 points per game. Randle provides the reserves with energy and versatility. His activity, combined with the scoring of Nick Young and Xavier Henry, could ease offensive flow on the nights that the starters struggle. Being one of the younger members of the bench will definitely be good news for backing up Boozer, as he will be 33 years old this upcoming season.
Development and confidence are two of the most important building blocks for an NBA rookie. As a player develops, he finds his strengths and weaknesses. Once he establishes where he can dominate and control the game, confidence follows. With both, there must be patience from the coaching staff and front office. The Lakers rarely have a chance to draft big time talent like Randle, so it will be a tall task.
If history serves correct, the Lakers are careful not to put their younger prospects in the fire too early. Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family must ensure that Randle finds comfort on the big stage of Los Angeles. Even the pressure outside of the game could stunt his growth. With a franchise like Los Angeles, it’s all about the rings, but Randle can’t get caught in that belief. Time is going to be the most important factor for the Lakers. They must take as much as needed to start back onto the road of glory. When the time is right, Randle should be given the green light.