In their highest draft selection since taking James Worthy with the first overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers took University of Kentucky star Julius Randle with the seventh pick in this year’s draft. The Lakers front office brass were excited that a player of Randle’s talent and skills was available at number seven and Randle looked very excited about joining the purple and gold.
Randle isn’t the athlete Andrew Wiggins is or a polished scorer like Jabari Parker, but the Lakers still landed a very good player who can help them get back on top. At 6’9 and 250 pounds, the Plano, Texas native has tremendous upside. Although he could be considered undersized to be a power forward in the NBA, Randle has shown to be a good post-up player that uses his big body to get solid low-post position.
He can also face up on his opponent and drive to the basket while being able to finish at the rim. Randle is also known to be a relentless rebounder, constantly crashing the boards on both ends of the floor.
League scouts have compared him to Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, who is a two-time All-Star. If the Lakers have the next “ZBo” on their team for the next few years, Randle may just be the steal of this draft.
Like any rookie, there are aspects of his game that need work such as the consistency of his jump shot and potentially extending his game to the three-point line. However, those improvements will be made with time, hard work, and repetition.
There are also questions about his health, mainly his right foot. Some believe he may need surgery on his foot to fix a pin that was not properly put in after breaking his foot in high school. Others feel that he is healthy and other teams exaggerated his injury to lower his draft stock. Randle insists his foot is fine, but the Lakers’ training staff will decide if surgery is necessary or not. The Lakers’ front office doesn’t seem too worried about Randle’s foot either.
No matter what concerns there are surrounding the 19-year-old, he has many other qualities that Laker fans should be impressed with. Randle is not only physically strong, but mentally tough as well. During his post-selection interview with ESPN’s Jay Williams on draft night, he said bluntly, “There are six other teams who are going to regret not picking me.”
That comment says so much about the character, confidence, determination and competitive nature of this kid. You can teach someone the mechanics of a jump shot, but no one can teach a player to have heart or a tough mindset.
The only thing more impressive than Randle’s basketball skills and strong mentality is the foundation he established in college. The lefty played at one of the best basketball programs in the nation at the University of Kentucky and under one of the best college coaches in John Calipari. Randle has already learned how to sacrifice his game for the good of the team. He was arguably the best all-around player on the Wildcats last year, who made it to the NCAA championship game, but could not showcase his skills and potential on such a deep and talented team.
Randle still managed to average 15 points and 10 rebounds a game while shooting 50% from the field and leading the nation with 24 double-doubles. Those numbers aren’t too shabby considering he wasn’t always the main option for Kentucky every night.
The Lakers have many questions surrounding their team that must be answered as they approach this whirlwind known as free agency. They still don’t have a head coach; they need to fill out a roster that only has four players (including Randle) under contract for the 2014-2015 season; and they are trying to lure the two biggest free agents on the market, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, to Los Angeles.
It is unknown what the Lakers will look like next season, but drafting a player like Randle is a step in the right direction during this rebuilding process. He may have some things to work on in order to make an immediate impact, but his skills and toughness are positive qualities in a rookie player.
Randle also understands the legacy and allure of the Lakers which includes his childhood idol and now teammate Kobe Bryant. He and Bryant should get along fine as the Mamba loves players who are intense, competitive, and have a desire to win. Randle brings that to the table which will earn him much respect from Bryant. From there he will learn from the best on what it takes to be a successful pro basketball player and hopefully reach that All-Star level, maybe even becoming an NBA champion one day.
Randle may not be the answer to all of the Lakers’ prayers, but they are still excited to have him in the purple and gold. He is just the first step in the Lakers’ long journey back to the top of the basketball world.