Player Review: Julius Randle

Player Review: Julius Randle

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Over the summer, there was a great debate about Julius Randle. Some people questioned his work ethic because he didn’t play in summer league. Some questioned if he could fit in the modern NBA without a reliable jumper. Some even questioned whether or not he should start over Larry Nance Jr. Well, after a very good individual year, he answered all of those questions.

The Good

Julius improved across the board this year with increases in PPG, APG, BPG, FG%, and FT%, but his advanced statistics are what really show his improvements.

His PER, TS%, AST%, OWS, DWS, BPM, and VORP all showed significant improvement. Almost every part of his game came back better than last year. Below is a breakdown of each part of Randle’s game that was a success this year.

Shooting and finishing

Julius improved his efficiency by huge margins, and it’s reflected in the numbers and his shooting chart.

2015-2016:

2016-2017:

Randle finished 9% better at the rim in 2017. The previous season, he would take a lot of bad shots or just blow easy layups. This was due in large part to not having full strength (and trust) from his previously broken leg and a lack of polish in his game.

 

This season, he would finish runners and was far smarter about his shots.

In this shot, Randle recognizes the mismatch. Nene is almost as old as our own Jeremiah Whitten, and Randle easily gets by him, laying it up strong.

This play was another smart move by Randle. He knew he could draw the foul, but could rise higher than Anderson and still get the easy layup.

While he shot 0.8% worse from three point land, that is due to a higher volume of shots from that distance. By the end of the year, Randle actually showed promise from beyond the arc, as he shot nearly 32.3% from three on 1.61 attempts per game through the last 21 games of the year. While Julius will likely never be a three point sniper, if he can shoot 33% from there on 1.5 attempts per game, it will open up his and his teammate’s games by huge amounts. For Randle himself, teams respecting his jump shot will allow him to get to the rim at a higher rate, which is what he does best. This game was a good example of that:

That was Randle’s second three of the game and it forced the defense to adjust. Very few big men have the quickness to stay in front of Randle, so when his matchup doesn’t space to recover, Randle can easily blow by him.

Randle being a legit pick and pop partner for D’Angelo Russell will open up the floor and the extra room Brandon Ingram will have on drives will make his finishing far more efficient.

Playmaking

In the end, what makes Julius special is his ability to play make as a 4, whether its bullying his way in for a layup, posting up, and passing off a screen, or what he is best at: pushing the ball off the break. As stated earlier, Randle’s AST% improved by a large margin this year. The former Wildcat showed a lot of promise as a ball handling big, and a huge jump from last year. The biggest difference is his decision making, trust in his teammates, and keeping his head more.

While this play is from this season, it looked a lot like Byron Scott’s final year.

In the play below, Randle didn’t sprint up the court as he would have done last year. Instead, he pushed the ball without forcing the issue, controlled the tempo perfectly, surveyed the floor and found Mozgov.

Again, he didn’t run full speed ahead like he would’ve done in the 2015-2016 season, he pushed the tempo, didn’t lose control, and found the open shooter.

 

The former seventh overall pick’s three triple-doubles flashed the potential to be a Lamar Odom/Draymond Green type of player on the offensive end. “But he doesn’t have a jumper!” or “He doesn’t have a right hand!” or “His IQ is too low!” Randle needs improvement for sure. So did Green and Odom. This year, Randle actually had a higher PER, win shares, and ORtg than both Green and Odom did in their age 22 seasons. He also had a lower TO% than the “cerebral” Lamar Odom did. In general, his counting numbers, Per 36, Per 100 Possessions, and advance stats were better than Green’s or Odom’s at the same age.

This isn’t to say he will be better than them, but it’s to say that at the same age, he was more advanced offensively than either of them, and that has a lot to do with his playmaking.

The Bad

Defense

Randle improved defensively, but that’s not saying much as he was still terrible this year on that end. Again, the main problem for Julius was off ball. He struggled on close outs as the man he was guarding shot nearly 40% from 3. He often loses his man off screens and fails to recover. In the modern NBA where most power forwards can shoot, this is a huge problem and it leads to a lot of points given up.

He has the physical tools to improve in this area, but needs more experience and effort here. This is likely a product of today’s AAU era. Teams often play three games a day and because of that, the best player often rests on defense to save energy for the offensive end. But this isn’t AAU, it’s the NBA, and Randle has to improve here.

The good news is that Randle was decent on ball, as he should be with his quickness. He was very good in pick and rolls (especially switching) and below average, but not horrible on post ups and ISO situations.

Randle can be a good defender. He is strong enough to body up anyone, is mobile, and his leaping ability helps make up for his below average wing span. He actually has a higher max reach than Draymond Green. He has all the tools to be this consistently:

This is my favorite defensive play from Randle all year. He closed out well on Towns. One of my biggest pet peeves is jumping on a close out. It’s to block threes, and if you jump, you will foul or get blown by. Instead, Randle stays on his feet and has has hind up. He keeps his feet moving to prevent Towns, a very mobile big himself, from going by. When he switches onto Dunn, he reads his match right by going under as Dunn is not a threat to shoot the ball. This allows Randle to switch back to Towns, who Russell had lost, and he gets the huge block.

This play is just a glimpse of what Randle can be. He won’t ever be a DPOY contender, but he could be an above average defender. Right now  though, he is still a bad defender who needs to improve.

 

 

Consistency 

The other major struggle Randle had was being consistent. He would go from a triple-double to scoring in single digits.

His assist numbers, double-doubles, and FG% all had high fluctuations. Randle had 21 single digit performances, including a three game stretch in January where he averaged 4.3 PPG on 23.8% shooting. I believe Randle is the Lakers 4 of the future, but to start on a contending team, he must be more consistent. The good news is that it is normal for young players to be inconsistent.

Grade:B+

I was originally going to give Randle a B, but after looking at his advanced stats and seeing where they compare to other similar players, his season became more impressive to me. He improved his game in every way and proved he can be the long term starting power forward of the Lakers. While he still has to improve, he has come a long way and the ceiling is the roof.

 

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