Kentucky PF Julius Randle, everybody’s favorite lefty, may require surgery on his foot after the draft that would keep out for a couple months. This is unlikely to impact his draft stock though as not only would he be ready to go come training camp in the fall, but he’s still working out for teams at the top of the lottery despite the injury. He’s scheduled to work out with the Boston Celtics on Friday, and Randle will likely be available when the Celtics pick at No. 6 overall.
Randle’s health really shouldn’t be a concern and neither should his ability to play basketball. It was hard to watch the Wildcats this past season and not notice Randle’s tenacity on the boards and his bull-like offensive game. What needs to be looked at is how his unique game will translate to the NBA. And most importantly, how he would fit with the Celtics.
Randle’s body is the most obvious concern when it comes to making the jump from college to the pros. 6-foot-9 isn’t exactly towering for an NBA PF, and his 7-foot wingspan and 8-foot-9.5 standing reach are worrisome for an interior player at that level.
A year ago, Randle was considered a possible top overall pick, and while he played well at Kentucky there are far too many doubts about him physically for that to happen. He also struggles to score with his back to the basket, mostly because he lacks the ability to finish to his right.
He may struggle to score against the bigger defenders he’ll come across in the league. Some question his athleticism, but he should be fine in that department. He’s got solid feet and his 35.5-inch vertical is actually equal to what both Blake Griffin and Amar’e Stoudemire recorded at their combines.
That’s not to say there isn’t reason for optimism. Randle has NBA ready strength and has a good chance to average a double-double right out the gate. His perimeter skills were probably a bit overrated coming out of high school, but despite struggling with his jump shot he has a nice stroke and should develop a very solid mid-range game. He handles the ball well for a big, so getting the mid-range game down pat will make him a menace in the pick and pop game.
Randle is a very good passer. This will help him in an NBA that requires a lot of their big men to move outside the arc to catch and pass in half court sets. You may remember how early in the season before Andrew Harrison figured things out that Kentucky was running much of their offense through Randle on the perimeter.
Here’s how Randle stacks up as a prospect compared to some current NBA-ers he’s oft-compared to. (Stats from final season of college).
Not awful and what that chart doesn’t show is Randle’s 3.27 second three-quarter court sprint and his 11.4 second time in the lane agility drill, both impressive. But his wingspan is a concern, and he’ll be even quicker if he can cut down his 9.4 percent body fat.
So how does he fit with the Celtics? Fans are excited by the development of Jared Sullinger, but around the league he’s considered a high-end role player, not a starting caliber franchise PF. With that being considered there’s a chance that at No. 6 Boston will be choosing between Randle, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon. Those three are unanimously viewed as the top PF prospects in this draft and all are ranked amongst the top eight overall prospects. Randle doesn’t give you the upside of Gordon or Vonleh, but he’s the most NBA-ready.
He’s a trooper. He plays with a ton of effort that will become even more of a plus for him if he can get into better shape. It’s not out of the question for him to develop into a Paul Millsap-level player.
The versatility of Vonleh or Gordon might entice the Celtics. They can afford to go with upside over NBA-readiness because it’s unlikely they’ll be good again for at least a couple years. With Sullinger on the roster, the Celtics may prefer one of those two.
However, I’m not going to be throwing stuff at my TV if Randle is the pick, and neither should you.