He only has a handful of NBA games under his belt, but Julius Randle has already adopted the mindset of a savvy NBA veteran. In the Lakers’ season opener against the Timberwolves, the 20-year old Randle was undaunted by 39-year-old Kevin Garnett, who furiously growled at Randle throughout the game.
“I’m not scared of anybody,” Randle said after posting 15 points and 11 rebounds against the Minnesota Timberwolves, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “The main thing is we know that’s his thing. That’s what he does, try to get in people’s heads. I’ve been watching him my whole life, so I knew what to expect.”
Randle’s response to the notorious trash talker is in marked contrast to Joakim Noah’s, who was “crushed” after realizing his childhood idol is a jerk. Thus, Randle earned some respect from the Mamba:
Kobe called Randle a "grown-ass man" after he stood up to Kevin Garnett last night
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 29, 2015
After a couple of mini-altercations between the two, Randle expertly threw an inbounds pass off Garnett’s back before bringing the ball up the court. In addition to his fearlessness, Randle’s ball-handling expertise has been a lethal weapon for the Lakers. His perimeter skills were on full display a few nights later against a team with another legendary power forward, Dirk Nowitzki. Randle abashed Nowitzki’s Mavericks by putting up 22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, four steals, and a block last Sunday, and the German star praised the sophomore’s performance.
Dirk on Julius Randle: "He puts the ball on the floor like no other power forward in this league. … His future is very bright."
— Bill Oram (@billoram) November 2, 2015
Funny to see the contrast: KG roars and howls at Randle in opener. Tonight Dirk pats him and nods to encourage him for such a good game.
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) November 2, 2015
It’s hard not to be impressed with how Randle uses his hefty stature to skate down the court like an oversized guard after ripping down defensive rebounds. Whether it’s on the fast break or in the half-court, Randle uses his quickness and ball-handling to get to the hoop before applying his brute force to bully his defenders down low and finish through contact.
He’s also adept at making on-the-fly decisions with the ball as he can drive and kick it out to an open teammate. These traits alone make him a formidable prospect, but if Randle can hit the mid-range jumper consistently then it would raise his ceiling tremendously.
Thus far, Randle is only shooting 33% on his mid-range jumpers. This is obviously a small sample size, and the more Randle improves his shot, the more the game will open up for him. Randle will have many more opportunities to blow by defenders once they respect his shot. Currently, Randle is heavily dependent upon driving to the basket to get his points as 65.8% of them come in the paint, and only 13.2% are scored from mid range. Incorporating a reliable jump shot and scoring more from outside the paint will add an unpredictable element to his game. His hard work and relentlessness are good indications that he will continue to expand his game.
Randle loves his job, and it keeps him driven and willing to take on challenges, like recovering from a busted knee cap.
“I just love the game of basketball, honestly,” Randle said when asked what kept him motivated during the low points of his recovery process. “I see where I want to be, I know how hard I have to work, and I have a great example in Kobe and his leadership. I’m just self-driven, and I’ve always been that way since I was a kid.”
Randle attacked Draymond Green, who’s arguably the league’s best defender, from the get-go of a preseason matchup against the Warriors. He took Green to the hoop multiple times before finally shouting “He can’t guard me!”
It’s difficult to envision a player of Randle’s drive and skill-set failing to excel at the NBA level. Randle has put in a ton of work to get to where he’s at, and that drive should propel him toward an excellent career.