After missing essentially his entire rookie year with a broken leg, Julius Randle entered his second season as basically a rookie. Randle managed to average a double-double in his “rookie” campaign thanks to some power post moves and his hustle to grab rebounds, but he showed that he’s still a work in progress. Now he enters his third season under new head coach Luke Walton, who may try to mold him after one of the league’s most impressive Swiss Army Knives in Draymond Green.
An undersized power forward who lacks the shooting touch to be a true stretch 4, Randle was taken No. 7 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2014 NBA Draft because of his athleticism and low-post scoring potential. However, Randle has underwhelmed so far, and last season there were times he was overshadowed by rookie Larry Nance Jr. Randle is still searching for his niche, and one of Walton’s many challenges as he takes over the Lakers will be to find a way to get the most out of the 21-year-old.
Walton will do his best to transform the Lakers into the Warriors — bless his heart — or at least replicate their style of play. Fast. Pass-happy. Lots of points. Swarming defense. Low-post scoring doesn’t figure to be a big part of Walton’s offense, but rebounding will.
The Warriors ranked first in the NBA last season in defensive rebounding, and Randle ranked seventh among players in defensive rebounds per game. Randle’s ball handling is super for a big man, and his ability to grab a rebound and push the ball down the court should transform him into a transition trigger man:
But unless Randle can become a more dynamic scorer, he could go the way of David Lee in Golden State and be regulated to a bench role. 309 of his 358 makes came in the paint last season, and he shot just 22.9 percent from mid-range, according to NBA.com. According to L.A. Daily News reporter Mark Medina, Randle is working on his mid-range game.
“Randle spent part of his two-a-day workout sessions with an unrevealed shooting coach to make subtle changes to his stroke. As Lakers coach Luke Walton said, ‘it’s been very impressive to see his commitment this offseason to become a better shooter.’”
Walton plans to occasionally play Randle at center next season, and he’ll have to become more efficient finishing in the pick-and-roll. He finished in the bottom 10 percentile as a roll man last season, scoring on just 36.9 percent of his attempts, per NBA.com. Compare that to one of the better pick-and-roll finishers, DeAndre Jordan, at 74.6 percent, or even Festus Ezeli’s 57.7 percent clip, and Randle has plenty of room to grow.
The good news for Randle is that the Warriors rarely asked the roll man to score — just 5.1 percent of the time. The Warriors used the pick-and-roll to draw defenses in one direction and execute a pass in another. In other words, it was more misdirection than scoring action. But that misdirection won’t work very well if defenses aren’t worried about the threat of Randle scoring. He doesn’t need to dominate like Jordan, but just be respectable.
Walton could opt to use Randle as the Warriors utilized Green, as a big who can both run the pick-and-roll as a ball handler:
Or, more dangerously, kick out as a roll man:
Green’s ability to rebound the ball and push it up the floor is similar to that of Randle’s:
Randle has a ton of talent as a ball handler, and he even recorded 10 assists in a triple-double performance against the Denver Nuggets last season. If Walton can harness that ability, he could use it to set up shooters like Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell.
But, again, Randle needs to improve on his shooting touch and finishing ability if he’s going to become anything close to the weapon Green is, and that’s not even mentioning Green’s impact as a defender. It’s a high ceiling to reach, but Randle’s natural athleticism and ball-handling talent makes him Walton’s closest facsimile to his former player.