The Los Angeles Lakers quite possibly just got the steal of the draft in Julius Randle.
When the NCAA season began back in November, there were three elite prospects: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Randle. All Randle did this season was average 19/14 per-40 with a 57% true-shooting percentage while leading his team to the national championship game against UConn. So why did he fall?
It’s perceived that Randle struggles against size, but I’m not particularly sure I buy that. At 6’9 and as Kentucky’s only true interior post presence much of the year, Randle was responsible for sticking around the rim as opposed to playing more in his preferred mid-post region. With the expanded midrange space in the NBA offensive zone, it should become much easier for Randle to not only get to the bucket with his elite first step for a big, but also finish around the basket (which isn’t a problem for Randle anyway, he shot 70% at the rim this season). Some also question his jump shot and whether or not he’ll be able to space the floor enough from the power forward position, but the mechanics on his jump shot are solid enough that a good coach should be able to work with him and improve them.
It’s also worth mentioning that Randle is probably the best rebounder in this draft class, despite only having a 7’0 wingspan. He positions himself extremely well, and uses his immense lower body strength to box out. He’s probably the strongest power forward to enter the draft since Blake Griffin, and he uses that strength to bully people around in the post.
Given that the Lakers don’t really have much of a roster surrounding Kobe Bryant right now, Randle should be able to slide in immediately and start. It’s impossible to guess where the roster goes beyond that. He’d be best paired with a strong, rim-protecting center that can defend the paint. Bryant will also probably like this pick, as Randle is ready to play now. Indeed, Randle is going to be one of my top projections for rookie of the year.
This is one of my favorite prospects in this draft, and I can’t figure out for the life of me why he fell to seventh overall. He’s an elite athlete both as far as quickness and strength, and plays hard regardless of the circumstance. I can’t see any circumstance where he completely fails, and I feel strongly that this is an all-star talent.