The wait is finally over. Possibly the most anticipated pick of the draft was at No. 7 by the Los Angeles Lakers, and we now know Julius Randle will be joining the team next season. Randle was projected to go as high as No. 3, but luckily for Los Angeles he dropped, subsequently forcing Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss‘ hands.
Often times, Randle has been compared to the Memphis Grizzlies‘ powerhouse Zach Randolph, which is certainly a valid comparison. Slightly undersized for a power forward, Randle uses his strength to rake in rebounds, crashing both the offensive and defensive boards. He is also fully capable of guarding every frontcourt player across the league, which will be a vital skill moving forward for Los Angeles. Offensively, Randle makes it a point of emphasis for himself to get as many buckets in the paint as he possibly can. This means that he looks for the highest percentage shot at all times, passing up a good shot to get a great shot. Despite the assumption of not having the ability to shoot, Randle has shown flashes of being a very capable 15- to 18-foot shooter.
Perhaps the largest deficiency for Los Angeles last season was interior defense, which can partly be accredited to former head coach Mike D’Antoni. With just Robert Sacre as the sole big man on the team, the Lakers really had to address the frontcourt issue as soon as possible. This may also lay the foundation for a new contract with current free agent Pau Gasol as he is not nearly capable of holding down the paint alone. Randle’s presence will mask Gasol’s defensive deficiency if re-signed, which could boost the Lakers back to being a competitive team in the deep Western Conference.
Furthermore, even though the Lakers missed out on the top prospects in Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Lakers’ fans should be ecstatic at the arrival of Randle. It’s the first step in what will be an enormous rebuilding process, but is absolutely a step in the right direction. If he lives up to the Randolph comparison, Randle has a chance to become one of the most valued young players in the entire NBA and I’m sure Kobe Bryant believes so as well. This pick will surely open up many more doors for the Lakers come July 1st when free agency officially begins.
I truly believe management will not regret hanging onto the pick, even if it takes one or two additional years to reach championship contending status.