Julius Randle shouldn’t start. Rookie players come off of a long year. They have the NCAA season. Most prospects play in the NCAA tournament. They all take part in NBA workouts, the NBA draft, and an NBA Summer Pro League. When Julius Randle participated in the Vegas Pro League, he had clearance to play from the doctors. His right foot was not an issue.
When he finally did participate, he didn’t resemble his collegiate self. There were reports that he had lost some weight. Jordan Clarkson was starting to shine as a Laker player, while Randle had some conditioning issues on the floor.
Laker fans didn’t get to see a Julius Randle in the low post.
They saw a face-up power forward. He played like that all week. It wasn’t what I was expecting.
Throughout the NCAA season, Randle had been dominant in the post, with his back to the basket. Yes, he used his post game too, but Randle’s strength came through with power in the paint.
Keep in mind he’s still 19 years old. Developing NBA players usually show the best improvement within the first three years. Randle faced up some competition closer to his level of strength at the Vegas Pro League level. It seems the lost weight affected Randle’s confidence to play in the post during the Vegas Pro League. He had opportunities to get position on the block, but often chose to step out to the mid-range area and face up. He did this nearly every time on the offensive end.
Julius had gotten away what made him a great NBA prospect. Yes, he needs conditioning. Yes, he needs confidence. More importantly, he needs confidence in the talent that made him such a tremendous prospect, using strength in the painted area while using a soft touch around the basket.
He is in the process of combining that conditioning and strength. Once that is established, we may see Julius Randle playing in the paint and being an effective interior scorer. Until then, he is in development. Punishing his body against taller, quicker, and sometimes bigger NBA players may hinder his development.
As great as Kobe Bryant is, he didn’t start his rookie year. He played more minutes during his second year. During the shortened fifty game season in 1998, he finally started as a small forward. Out of the gate, he was a 20 point per game, 10 rebound per game small forward. The conditioning was always there. The added strength and incredibly motor allowed him to play more competitively at a position reserved for bigger players. The rest is history.
We would love to see Julius Randle become a 20-point per game, 10 rebound per game player. With players declaring early for the NBA draft, it doesn’t always happen over night. But with progressive development over time, he may be able to do that over a long NBA career.