Julius Randle Drafted by LA Lakers: Latest News, Reaction and Analysis

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJune 26, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 28:  Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates defeating the Louisville Cardinals 74 to 69 during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 28, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Updates from Sunday, July 13

The Los Angeles Lakers' confirmed Julius Randle's signing via their Twitter account:

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reported on Julius Randle's contract in Los Angeles:

Original Text

Kentucky star forward Julius Randle was a relative lock to go near the top of the 2014 NBA draft. The only uncertainty was just how early he would come off the board. The Lakers answered that by selecting Randle No. 7 overall in the first round:

After the selection, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant welcomed the rookie:

The Lakers offered their insight as well:

Among the decorated freshmen to take the court for Kentucky, Randle stood out as the most consistent performer, morphing himself into a double-double machine with averages of 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest.

In just one year under coach John Calipari, Randle indicated when he declared for the draft that he felt he had accomplished almost all he set out to do in Lexington, Kentucky, per ESPN.com:

I came here to win a national championship. I came here to mature on and off the court, and I did that. I came (up) one game short of winning a national championship, we did as a team. But everything we went through this year was just an experience I'll never forget. That alone kept me at peace.

ESPN expert Chad Ford was not all that impressed with how Randle measured at the predraft combine in Chicago, though:

Whatever Randle lacks in raw size can be compensated for by his relentless motor, aggression on the glass and his developed post game that should translate well to the NBA. Often in Kentucky's offense, one of its blue-chip freshmen would go into isolation situations, and Randle would even start with the ball at the top of the key, seeking to take his opponent off the dribble.

Although his mid-range shooting game leaves something to be desired, adversaries have to respect Randle's jumper and his quick first step. Those come in handy when Randle is backing down toward the rim or when he's faced up.

Fox Sports' Jimmy Spencer compares Randle to Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph:

There is no questioning Randle's passion for the game, so it stands to reason that he'll improve a lot more before he reaches his professional apex. In the meantime, he still has an opportunity to start within a year or two for the Lakers.

Getting a player of this caliber at this point of the draft is incredible for Kobe and the reeling Lakers. The storied franchise had a nightmare outing last season. Randle could be the first step in turning things around and getting aging Kobe another shot at getting a ring on his way out.

Randle is only going to keep getting better as a shooter, which is a terrifying prospect for those who have the unenviable task of guarding him. A sturdy frame should also allow Randle to be durable in the NBA and keep him productive as a finisher at the rim while he works on the more subtle parts of his offensive game.

The evolution of the power forward position demands that Randle develop more of a perimeter arsenal, and with that comes the responsibility to match up with those stretch 4s. Randle has the athleticism to do so, but he must refine his defense and make more than just occasional splash plays on that end of the court.

Part of the lackluster effort in that area could be blamed on Kentucky's difficulties of learning how to play together throughout Randle's only year with the team. However, he can certainly work harder toward expediting his progression in that area, which will give him an inside track toward a starting spot.

Considering he's just 19 years of age and already has an NBA-ready body and enough tools to be effective right away, Randle has an intriguing blend of polish and rawness to him. That has to make the Lakers excited to plug him into the rotation, because Randle has all the makings of overachieving as a rookie and putting it all together to become a force in the Association by his third year or so.

The Lakers have to start thinking about life after Bryant and Randle will give them a talented piece to build around.