Playing with Kobe Bryant may be an acquired taste for some, but it's an attractive prospect for any young player who wants to learn how to win. There aren't many experts on the subject with Kobe's credentials.
Count probable lottery pick Julius Randle among those who have no problem suiting up alongside Bryant, according to InsideSoCal.com's Mark Medina:
"He was my favorite player. I loved Kobe’s persona and swagger and how he played," Randle said. "He was someone I always looked up to at a young age."
Hence, why Randle’s eyes lit up about the possibility playing with Bryant.
"It would be extremely fun," Randle said. "I could learn a lot from him and talk to one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of all time. There’s a lot I could learn from and pick his brain in just how to get better and dealing with adversity."
Randle's attitude is admirable and perhaps fitting. The Kentucky product spent just one season at the NCAA level, so he has plenty of learning left to do. Finding a destination already outfitted with a strong mentor or two would certainly benefit Randle in the long term.
The 19-year-old has already proven himself worthy of consideration by a team like the Lakers. He averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per contest with the Wildcats. His physical attributes may be better than advertised as well, according to DraftExpress.com's Mike Schmitz:
Randle was criticized for much of his freshman year for a low steal and block rate, which many attributed to having short arms. He put that rumor to rest by registering a 7-foot wingspan, more than adequate for his 6-9 (in shoes), 250-pound frame, even if his standing reach leaves something to be desired at 8-9 1/2. The 6-9 250 pound Randle measured similarly to Kevin Love, who came in at 6-7 ¾ without shoes, 255 pounds, with a 6-11 ¼ wingspan and 8-10 standing reach.
Los Angeles could be in the market for a power forward, especially if free agent Pau Gasol takes his 33-year-old talents elsewhere. Even if Gasol sticks around, some depth in the paint couldn't hurt. Big men Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman are also free agents this summer.
There's always the possibility that the Lakers deal their pick in an attempt to bring someone in who could help right away. That would of course get in the way of any plans Randle might have of becoming Bryant's protege.
One way or the other, Randle is sure to find a home sooner rather than later in the draft. There's always a premium on skilled big men, and Randle ranks as one of the very best bigs in the draft alongside center Joel Embiid and power forwards Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon.
It remains to be seen how much interest Los Angeles has in Randle, but ESPN Insider's Chad Ford has the organization selecting Randle in his latest mock draft (subscription required).