Julius Randle is a star power forward for the University of Kentucky. His skills revolve around a classic power forward role, in the painted area. There, he has been dominant throughout the season as a freshman, and was arguably ready for the NBA out of high school.
Size-wise, Randle stands at 6’9″ (in shoes) with a 6’11″ wingspan at 248lbs. He has a brick wall of a body, NBA ready out of high school. There are concerns about his standing reach at 8’9.5″, but it is the equal reach to other power forwards and centers such as Cody Zeller, Mason Plumlee, and Jared Sullinger. Each of them are effective NBA players improving in the league, there’s no reason Randle shouldn’t be categorized as so.
Athletically, he’s a stand-out player. He has excellent feet; able to anchor down a pivot foot in the post and withstand physical contact, as well as keep up laterally in pick and roll situations defensively. There are times when he is forced to switch to the guard, and despite his 248lb. frame, can keep up. In transition, he’s one of the faster players down the court, and able to get the defensive rebound and finish at the other end. While some question that he’s not able to play above the rim, he is. Granted, he doesn’t have the supreme vertical ability like Blake Griffin, but he finishes lob plays and is able to dunk with two hands on drives to the basket. More importantly, he already carries NBA-level strength, which allows him to withstand double and triple teams in the paint. He scores against those defenders and is able to rebound through contact as well.
Offensively, he plays the low post and high post very well. From the elbows of the key, he likes to use a crossover dribble to breakdown his defender, his quickness to get by, and his strength to finish through contact at the hoop. This has happened all season, even against great competition such as Michigan State. In the low post, he uses spin moves, the up-and-under, drop steps, and quickness to get his shot off in the paint. He finishes well over 65% of his shots in the paint, which is very good considering the contact he withstands. He has a surprisingly soft touch on the ball and is able to finesse shots at tough angles, but the shots always seem to drop. More importantly, he has a developing jumphook as well and has no problems using the shot on either side of the key. His jumpshot from midrange, and ultimately the 20′ mark need improvement, but his free throw percentage is at 71.1%, so it’s possible he can easily gain consistency from those areas as well. As a passer, he’s underrated and kicks out to shooters effectively. At times, he has tunnel vision when he’s under the basket, but it can be a tough decision to make. Do I finish underneath the hoop? Or do I have the team settle for another 3-point shot? Kentucky can be defined as streaky at best from range, so he opts to finish in the paint. Still, he is an unselfish player.
Defensively, he has some strengths and opportunities. Like Kevin Love, he’ll be an opportunistic shotblocker. He may never block the shot at the peak of its trajectory, but rather, early near the release point. He’s more likely to strip the basketball from opposing players. In terms of man-defense, he’s able to bump post players out, use quickness to deflect post entry passes, and as mentioned earlier, keep up laterally with smaller guards. He’s able to create a situation where his team can force one-and-dones, meaning, the opponent will take a tough shot and he’ll grab the defensive rebound.
His motor in terms of rebounding can only be compared to Kenneth Faried at the NBA level. Faried has a 7′ wingspan, but Randle plays with a similar activity level in the paint, especially when attacking the basket. What makes Randle such a tremendous rebounder at 10.0 rebounds per game, is his talent for drawing himself into the paint. During defensive rebound situations, he finds an assignment, any assignment, boxes them out, and explodes up. This is the way coaches have taught players to rebound at all levels. He doesn’t reach for rebounds, because he usually has outstanding position. He has a great low base so that he doesn’t get knocked out of position. In terms of offensive rebounding, he will walk opponents under the hoop. He’ll box out if necessary, but smaller defenders seem to just bounce off of him when he attempts to grab the rebound. Not only will he get the rebound, but he’ll attack the basket right away, and has a quick jump to get another shot off.
Overall, Randle is a prospect coaches would love to have. His energy and motor can always keep his team in games. His athleticism complements his activity level well, and he’s able to produce great numbers on the defensive backboard and on the offensive end. Power forwards of this nature are rare to have. He may not stand out as a #1 option on offense because he doesn’t have the perimeter skills of LaMarcus Aldridge or Jabari Parker (whom I projected at power forward at the NBA level), but as a future #2 or #3 option, he’s scary. He can effectively screen opponents with his body, roll hard, and finish through contact effectively. He can be isolated in the low or high-post and get a quality shot off. He’s shooting at a 54% clip and averaging 15.7 points per game on 10 field goal attempts per game. It’s only a matter of time until he refines his drive-and-kick ability, adds the range to his shooting touch, and becomes unstoppable from 15′ and in.