Lakers Debate: Higher Ceiling, Julius Randle or Larry Nance Jr?

Jan 12, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Alonzo Gee (15) dunks the ball as Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) and forward Julius Randle (30) defend at Staples Center. The Lakers won 95-91. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 12, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Alonzo Gee (15) dunks the ball as Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) and forward Julius Randle (30) defend at Staples Center. The Lakers won 95-91. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Lakers’ young core is going to be a force to be reckoned with down the line, but which of their two impressive power forwards has the higher ceiling?

Heading into last season, this wasn’t an issue at all, but after Larry Nance Jr came in and greatly surprised Lakers’ fans and continued to improve this summer, questions of what will happen between him and Julius Randle are now a heated topic of debate.

Last year was technically both players’ rookie season — on account of Julius Randle missing year one with a broken leg — so the comparison is warranted in that sense.

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Looking at the tale of the tape, though both standing 6’9, Randle is two years younger and 20 pounds heavier than his front court mate, Nance. In terms of measurables, at their Draft Combines Randle posted a 7-foot wingspan and 8′ 9.5″ standing reach while Nance recorded at 7′ 1.5″ and 9′ 0″ respectively.

Additionally, despite having the same no-step vertical of 29-inches, Nance also had a two inch advantage in the max vert category — 35.5″ to 37.5″ — though his max vertical during his pre-draft workout with the Lakers was actually much higher than that.

Knowing all of this, the question then remains, which player has the higher ceiling?

Advith Sarikonda, Staff Writer

Considering that Larry Nance, Jr. has already played four years in college and has a year in the professional league under his belt, he is relatively developed on both sides of the ball. Indeed, because of both his age and experience, his skillset is pretty refined, and arguably more suitable for Luke Walton’s motion offense in comparison to Julius Randle’s for the time being.

This might lead one to believe, therefore, that Nance has a higher ceiling than the latter, but that simply is not true. Randle was once mocked to be a top three draft pick for a reason, as his strength, fluidity, and ball-handling ability coming out of college were traits that few players possess, especially for a college freshman.

Fans have been the victims of availability bias recently, as they saw Nance dominate in summer league, whereas Randle didn’t play and was hence the target of some undue criticism. For all we know, Nance may be the better, more polished player for the Lakers right now.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to envision Nance starting over Randle at some point during the season. But it’s clear that as far as ceilings go, Nance’s is nowhere near that of Randle’s.

Shereen Rayan, Staff Writer

When I think about Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. what separates them in my eyes is attitude.

Julius Randle came to the Lakers as a very high draft pick at No. 7 out of highly touted Kentucky in the 2014 NBA draft. He was slated to help propel the Lakers into the playoffs and compliment Kobe Bryant but sadly, broke his leg in the first game of the regular season. In my opinion this setback lowered his ceiling a bit.

In contrast, Larry Nance Jr. was drafted No. 27 in the 2015 NBA draft out of Wyoming and it was clear early on that Nance was just happy to be there. Not necessarily expecting much, fans were treated to a positive and talented rookie who had some major hops!

Unlike Randle, he didn’t have the pressure or build up that the lottery pick had to deal with. His dunks made watching Lakers’ basketball a joy. His infectious smile and team mentality along with not demanding the spotlight, made him a fan favorite overnight.

So as far as upside on this Lakers team, I’m picking Nance. For Randle to have a breakout season and to finally prove himself he may need to play for another team. My hope is that they both show the NBA world that the Lakers shouldn’t be counted out this season.

Stephen Ontiveros, Staff Writer

This is a very interesting question, and one I never thought I would have to answer. Both players look to be a large part of the team’s future.

Right now, we have a better understanding of the type of player Larry Nance, Jr. will be: a high energy power forward off the bench, who could even get some minutes at the center position in small ball lineups.

This is not the case with Julius Randle, however. Randle is ferocious on the boards, averaging a double-double per game in what was pretty much his rookie season, but what else? He is the size of a prototypical power forward, but does not yet have the outside shot needed out of the four position in today’s NBA. Further, he is too small to justify placing him at center, as he struggles when it comes to rim protection.

That being said, Randle’s midrange shot continued to improve as the season went on last year, and should only improve under new head coach Luke Walton. With Walton’s help, Julius Randle can tap into the vast potential scouts have raved about since his high school days and blow past the ceiling of Larry Nance Jr.

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