The old adage is to always take the best player available during the NBA draft. Yet, when there is no consensus best player, which is pretty apparent in this year’s draft class, then you have to look beyond that. The Los Angeles Lakers, in my estimation, already have several wing players who are very talented. What they are missing is help on the interior, and Kentucky‘s Julius Randle will provide that.
Randle is a hard-nosed power forward who can score in a variety of ways in the paint, displaying very good athleticism. Think a young Zach Randolph, when he was coming out of Michigan St, but I think Randle is a better athlete. The knock on Randle is that he is a bit of tweener for the PF position (6-foot-9, 250 pounds), and lacks a steady jump shot and length. Randle is super strong and has the ability to finish with contact; he can bump his man off, so the lack of length can be neutralized in that manner.
His game is right there with Jabari Parker as far as scoring in the paint, but the difference is that Randle is an underrated defender and shows unbridled effort. In other words, he has a motor, and that is absolutely huge if you want to be an impact player at the pro level. He is a very outgoing, gregarious kid, so the Los Angeles spotlight will not be unnerving. In fact, it might bring out the best in him.
I’m worried how someone like Andrew Wiggins would handle being a Laker. He doesn’t seem very assertive and has stated in the past he would want to stay home and play for the Toronto Raptors. Yikes. More than likely, the Lakers will be in the 4-7 range on draft night, and Randle will probably still be there. I’m going to assume Joel Embiid and Wiggins will be gone by then, so the choice will be between Randle, Parker, Dante Exum or Marcus Smart.
I’m just not sure how good the latter three will be, I don’t see an elite level athlete out of those players. It’s no guarantee they will be any better than some of the young talented perimeter players the Lakers currently have, at least not right away. What I do know is that with the more than likely departure of Pau Gasol this summer, they are going to need bigs who can get points in the paint.
The league is getting smaller, so I am not as worried about Randle dealing with length at the power forward position as I might have been five years ago. Randle is a terrific rebounder, has excellent body control and flat-out possesses a nose for the ball. I’m going to assume Mike D’Antoni is gone when the season ends, so small ball will be six feet under by the time training camp 2014 hits.
If the Lakers want toughness and easy buckets, they won’t regret calling Randle’s name on June 26.