The much anticipated NBA Summer League in Las Vegas is in full swing and finally so is Julius Randle. Randle was forced to sit out the team’s first game solely due to the fact that Los Angeles Lakers‘ management delayed his official signing in order to retain cap flexibility if Carmelo Anthony intended to sign in Los Angeles. As soon as word broke that the Lakers were out of the Anthony sweepstakes, Plan B immediately began by the signing of multiple free agents in addition to the Jeremy Lin acquisition.
Fans were incredibly excited to witness their No. 7 overall pick get some time on the hardwood, especially after doctors medically cleared him to play. Randle’s foot was an underlying issue bringing out the jitters in Lakers fans until he had it checked out by the nation’s top foot specialist in Indiana. Summer League was rapidly approaching, but Randle was still unable to participate in the contract practice drills because of his contract holdup. Ultimately the two sides reached an agreement on Sunday which will pay him nearly $2.5 million over the course of the 2014-15 NBA season.
Furthermore, once all of the details were ironed out, Randle made his debut on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans followed up by an outing on Monday night vs. the Golden State Warriors. Randle recorded 10 points and two rebounds against New Orleans prior to posting an impressive 14 points and four rebounds when facing off against Golden State. Neither box score really jumps out unless you really watched the games.
When Randle was selected by Los Angeles, he was instantly assumed to be a Zach Randolph style player who will bully the opposing big man down low. This opinion is certainly a warranted one as that is what he was basically at the University of Kentucky to no fault of his own. The stakes were much higher since Kentucky was seeking a high seed in the March Madness tournament forcing Randle to stick to his guns as the physically imposing power forward he was recruited to be. However, in the two Summer League games thus far, Randle appears to be much more versatile than originally expected.
On multiple occasions Randle has displayed his remarkable ability to play face up basketball. Although he has not shied away from playing in the post, Randle has shown his tremendous dribbling abilities as well as his on court vision to find the cutting or open man on the perimeter. A former Laker who provided this vital skill was in fact Lamar Odom. Of course Randle’s ball handling is nowhere near as polished as Odom’s was in his prime, but he definitely has the potential to reach that level. Often times, Odom assumed the role as a point-forward which ended up being the reason why he was such a valued player once upon a time.
If Randle can develop a mid-range jumper and also improve his ball handling skills, the Lakers can potentially have the steal of the draft. He undoubtedly has a long way to go, but there are glimmers of hope early on in the Summer League games. Luckily as the Lakers’ roster currently sits, Randle is almost guaranteed plenty of minutes to further develop his skills during his rookie season alongside mentor Kobe Bryant.