Sixty of the top prospects in this year's class converged on Chicago this week, and it can be argued that Randle was the most intriguing player present.
Randle is viewed as a likely top-five pick, but his closest competition, in the forms of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, opted against attending the combine, per ESPN's Chad Ford:
Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker will skip the Combine. Adreian Payne & Mitch McGary out with injuries— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 12, 2014
That left Randle as the ostensible No. 1 guy in Chicago. There was plenty of interest surrounding Randle's measurements, due to the fact that he is more of a power forward whereas Wiggins and Parker are viewed as small forwards.
Per Thomas Beisner of KSTV, Randle measured in respectably and boasted a seven-foot wingspan:
Julius Randle measures 6'9" in shoes, 6'7.75" without shoes, with a seven-foot wingspan.— Thomas Beisner (@Beisner_cn2) May 15, 2014
Ford characterized Randle's size as solid:
Julius Randle measured 6' 7.75 in socks, 6-9 in socks. 7' 0" wingspan. 250 pounds. 8' 9.5" standing reach. Solid, but not elite.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 15, 2014
That latter fact is important, since Randle will be spending plenty of time in the paint as a professional. Although he'll encounter some competition that is taller than 6'9", he definitely has the size and strength necessary to be a big-time factor.
---UPDATE: Friday, May 16 at 4 p.m. ET---
After getting measured and doing some light drills on Day 1 of the NBA Draft Combine Thursday, Randle and the rest of the prospects in attendance worked out with more intensity Friday.
Randle ran through a number of athletic drills and he was quite impressive throughout. The combine won't necessarily make or break the draft stock of any players, but Randle put on a fantastic display to make up for a height measurement that could have potentially worried some teams.
According to Beisner, Randle's vertical leap of 35.5 inches put him on par with some of the NBA's most explosive athletes in recent years:
Julius Randle's max vertical is 35.5 inches. Same combine measurement as Blake Griffin, Amare Stoudemire and Derrick Favors.— Thomas Beisner (@Beisner_cn2) May 16, 2014
In addition to that, Randle competed in some agility drills. The vertical leap was Randle's bread and butter, but he looked fluid in the lane test too, as seen in this video courtesy of Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler:
Julius Randle lane agility test https://t.co/yAPKlCUeso— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) May 16, 2014
There was a scary moment when Randle tweaked his ankle during that drill, per Tyler Thompson of Kentucky Sports Radio, but it didn't appear to negatively impact Randle:
Julius Randle just tweaked his ankle during lane agility drills at the NBA Draft Combine, doesn’t look too serious.— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) May 16, 2014
Organizations may use the combine as a tiebreaker of sorts if they view two prospects as equals, and if that is the case, then Randle did himself some favors. His leaping ability should translate to the next level and allow him to outflank bigger opponents.
Randle deserves a lot of credit for attending the combine and putting himself out there. It ultimately proved to be the right decision as Randle's skill set really stood out on Day 2.
---END OF UPDATE---
The workouts were fairly light on Day 1 at the combine, so Randle didn't really have an opportunity to separate himself from the rest of the field on the court, but the mere fact that he decided to show up, when other top prospects didn't, had to score him some points with evaluators.
Speaking to NBA TV, via WKYT, Randle's intention was to appear at the combine all along regardless of what other players decided to do:
At the end of the day I'm a competitor. I like to see how I stack up against other people and what I can do to improve. So it was never a doubt that I wouldn't be here. You know I saw the articles and stuff like that, and questions were asked if I was going to come or not, but I mean it was never in doubt. I thought it was only upside for me to come here and talk to teams and go out here and go out here and compete.
Randle certainly seems to have the type of mentality that lottery teams are looking for in a high pick, and he also supplements that competitive nature with top-flight production.
Who do you consider to be the top prospect in the 2014 NBA draft?
Although the Wildcats experienced a roller coaster ride during the 2013-14 regular season, Randle and his teammates raised their respective games during the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky surprised observers by reaching the National Championship Game, and Randle was one of the main driving forces behind that run.
He averaged over 15 points and 10 rebounds per contest as a freshman and shot an impressive 50 percent from the field. Randle also proved to be competent at the free-throw line, as he converted nearly 71 percent from the stripe, which is a great number for a post-up guy.
Although the order of selection will depend largely upon how the draft lottery plays out, Randle is definitely among the elite prospects. It may be tough for him to rise among the likes of Wiggins and Parker, but he has the potential to possibly overtake Embiid due to some injury concerns surrounding the Kansas center.
At the same time, it isn't outside the realm of possibility that prospects like Noah Vonleh, Dante Exum and even Aaron Gordon could surpass him on draft night.
The worst-case scenario for Randle appears to be the No. 7 selection at this point, but he could very easily come off the board as early as No. 3.
Friday's combine drills could have a major impact on Randle's stock, depending upon how his counterparts fare. Randle will definitely have an opportunity to make his case against Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, if nothing else, since they won't be present.
Randle has an advantage over most other prospects due to the fact that he produced at a high level for elite programs against other top teams. That can't be said for everyone, so Randle is simply in a position where he needs to avoid a catastrophic showing in Chicago. As long as he can do that, his draft billing promises to be safe.
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