Man, is this guy tough to stop or what?
He's not getting the same No. 1 overall buzz as Kansas' Andrew Wiggins or Duke's Jabari Parker, but Julius Randle might actually be the biggest mismatch and handful of all of them.
Through roughly two months of college basketball, Randle has established the reputation of being a beast or bully on the block. At 6'9", 250 pounds, he's got the strength to earn position, along with the athleticism and touch to finish in traffic at the rim.
In the first half of Kentucky's 73-66 win over Louisville, Randle was absolutely dominant before leaving the game in the second with cramps.
|Julius Randle, Kentucky||FGM-A||Points|
|First half against Louisville||7-8||17|
But we've seen Randle take over before. Only this time, he did most of his work operating a little further from the rim.
We're used to seeing Randle play with his back to the basket in the post, where he shakes and overpowers his way closer to the rim before flipping a shot around defenders. Against Louisville, Randle was playing a little further out, where the defense isn't able to double-team him.
And Louisville didn't have an answer.
He came firing out of the gate by showcasing a first step and take to the rack that likely had scouts drooling on their notebooks. Randle essentially flashed his towering offensive upside in one move:
Because he's able to play on the perimeter facing up, Randle is tough to take out of a game. You can't double him 20 feet from the rim. And few power forwards are laterally quick enough to keep Randle in front of them in space.
Randle's ability to face and attack is what could ultimately propel him to that next level of mismatch.
"If they play me one-on-one I'd be surprised. That would be Christmas," Randle said to Larry Vaught of The Advocate Messenger, referring to a previous opponent. He's right—it would be Christmas for Randle. And it's the fact that you can't play him one-on-one that drives his All-Star NBA upside. In order to neutralize him, defenses have to double, which creates spacing, frees up shooters and opens lanes.
Only when Randle is going to work as a face-up threat on the perimeter, the double-team isn't an option.
He'll eventually need a jumper to complete the face-up package, which would keep defenders honest and vulnerable, but he's shown some promise here long term.
The Zach Randolph comparison is a good one, only Z-Bo isn't nearly as quick off the bounce. If Randle can start connecting in the mid-range from triple-threat position—oh boy.
Interior Instincts, Body Control
It's almost as if Randle doesn't need a fancy-footwork move to separate or create his own shot. He's got remarkable body control when wheeling and dealing and somehow manages to always get a clean, high-percentage look at the rim.
By effectively positioning his body and readjusting midair, Randle goes at two defenders and still ends up with an easy, balanced, uncontested shot at the rim:
Randle has unteachable interior instincts with a great feel for the game. It's like he's got GPS around the basket. He's able to always locate the rim and score at unfamiliar angles.
He might not have a refined post game with fadeways, hook shots or turnaround jumpers. But Randle just has a natural ability to improvise on the go, creating and making easy shots he's never created or made in practice.
Weaknesses: Turnovers, Recognition, Defense
Randle is averaging over three turnovers a game—one too many for a big man. You can count on him spinning into traffic instead of away from it at least twice a game. Randle doesn't always recognize where the help is and sometimes goes into predetermined attack mode without an escape plan:
It's not a long-term weakness—just something he needs to improve in the immediate future to look a little more controlled.
His only worrisome long-term weakness is his minimal defensive impact. He's got nine blocks in 13 games, and his IQ and awareness are both subpar at this end of the floor.
Unlike Kansas' Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Australia's Dante Exum and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Randle appears to be more of a one-way prospect. And there's nothing wrong with that—as long as Randle can continue to dominate that one way.
It looks like Randle might lose the upside battle with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but he seems to score a little higher on the sure-thing scale. He's an NBA-ready athlete with the size, game and motor to translate.
So far this year, he's been a double-double machine, something that will be expected of him at the next level if he's taken with a top pick.
|2013-14||Field-goal percentage||Points per game||Rebounds per game||Assists per game||Blocks per game|
He, along with Jabari Parker, have been the two most consistent of the big-name freshmen.
I'm sure you've heard it a thousand times since the start of the year—Randle is a man among boys out there. And it's possible that quality gets a team to bite early with a No. 1, 2 or 3 pick in the draft.
He definitely has limitations in terms up upside when you compare him to the other standout prospects in the field. Still, as long as Randle continues to score and rebound like a madman, he'll remain a top-three candidate from now until predraft workouts.