Julius Randle has had quite an eventful year. A few early losses for the Kentucky were mostly put on his shoulders. Still, he plays for a young freshman team full of raw talent. Of that raw talent, he’s the most polished player of the entire group.
Earlier this season, he got criticism for having a short wingspan. LakeShowLife made a counter argument against that criticism found here. He has been covered on LakeShowLife all season, whether it’s been his scouting report, his role as a Laker if he was drafted by the team, and even a draft comparison with Jabari Parker. Of the projected lottery picks, he’s the one left standing in the Final Four.
Why is he still just a Top 5 pick? Why isn’t he ranked higher?
Julius Randle isn’t the “sexy” pick. Andrew Wiggins has otherworldly athleticism. Jabari Parker has advanced skills. Dante Exum is the relatively unknown. Joel Embiid is the project big man. There’s no sense of intrigue to him. It just so happens that Julius Randle is the quiet one of the group. If this was a Real World MTV casting, he would have been eliminated early for not adding drama.
You see, it’s what he brings to the floor. In a world where jumping higher or shooting great 3-point percentages rule the NCAA floors, Randle does neither. His dunks aren’t flashy. His 3-point percentage is just 16.7% on 18 attempts all year. His game is far more old school. He’s a strong player, and he knows it. What does he do? He establishes position in the post. He’s rarely dislodged from it. From there, he opts for a jump hook or a flip shot in the paint. An example of his more advanced footwork is used when he pivots and faces the basket from 10′ to 15′ out. He’ll attack hard in a straight line. He’ll use a shimmy or a crossover to shake his defender off balance. He’ll meet all of the contact at the painted area, and be among the elite when it comes to converting And-1′s at the NCAA level. His game is 15′ and in. He adds a touch of finesse to the bully basketball that happens in the paint, and he’s successful at it.
Playing the power forward position used to be about picking up the scraps leftover from the center position. Great defensive players and hustle players come from that position. From A.C. Green and Dennis Rodman to Kenneth Faried and Anderson Varejao, some things haven’t changed. Now, the league has changed, where Tiago Splitter, Joakim Noah, DeAndre Jordan, and other centers are picking up the scraps leftover. One could say, Julius Randle is part of that new wave power forward, where he’s establishing the presence in the paint at the offensive end, while Willie Cauley-Stein picks up right after. He can be an NBA fit.
At 15 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game at 50% from the field, the numbers don’t really stand out more than any other great role player. The thing is, fans haven’t seen a lot of other parts of his game. He’s basically restricted to being a paint player for Kentucky. Few have seen the chances of him going end-t0-end in transition like Charles Barkley. Even fewer have seen him isolated along the perimeter and create a jumpshot using ball-handling and footwork with skill equal to a small forward.
But, here’s the bottom line. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, are all eliminated from the tournament. They all left surprisingly early. As inexperienced as Kentucky is, Randle’s contributions have kept his team in the game, or got them over the hump from a game-long deficit. His old school game has been successful, and Kentucky has a great chance against Wisconsin tonight to make it to the Finals. He’s level headed. He’s a winner. If he were to fall to the Lakers in the draft, the Lakers would be fortunate to have him. He may not stand out as a franchise player, but there’s no reason to count him out. He’s a strong, silent type.
Who knows, he may surprise fans with a few new moves against Wisconsin tonight. There’s more left in the bag.
He could also be the key to future Laker success, wingspan be damned.