Once considered a potential top-three pick in the upcoming NBA draft, Julius Randle’s stock has slipped steadily in recent weeks. With the No. 7 pick, the Los Angeles Lakers could be the beneficiary of the drop.
At issue is the Kentucky forward’s right foot. Broken during his senior year in high school, the foot reportedly never properly healed.
According to Jeff Goodman for ESPN, the situation has some NBA teams concerned:
“According to several team executives, the 6-foot-9 Kentucky forward's broken right foot hasn't healed correctly -- and sources confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that Randle may need surgery after the June 26 NBA draft that will keep him out of summer league.”
Randle, a bruising 6’9” forward with the ability to score and rebound at will, took to Twitter to respond: "I never do this but it was brought to me and it's crazy how people put stories out there and have no clue what they are talking about.”
Randle’s mother, Carolyn Kyles, also weighed in, telling Kyle Tucker from Louisville's The Courier-Journal that there is no surgery scheduled whatsoever and pointing toward his recent workout for the Orlando Magic, who currently own the No. 4 pick:
"Call Orlando and ask about Julius' vertical and his speed when he tested there. It increased from what he tested at the NBA combine. If he is scheduled for surgery, why is he doing all these workouts?"
Regardless of the family’s assertions, injury reports do have an effect, and it doesn’t take much for a slide to gain momentum.
Will Los Angeles take him if he falls that far?
For Randle’s part, that result would be just fine. During the NBA Chicago predraft combine, the high-energy forward expressed enthusiasm for the possibility of playing with Kobe Bryant, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
“It would be extremely fun. 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.”
The Kentucky freshman averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds, playing all 40 games during his one-and-done season and was a major part of the team’s run to the NCAA Championship tourney—ultimately losing to UConn.
On the other hand, Randle is somewhat undersized for the power forward position in the NBA, doesn’t have an especially impressive wingspan and does most of his offensive damage in the post—something of an anomaly in today’s NBA where so much is predicated on spreading the floor.
And then there’s the foot issue—something the Lakers could be very sensitive to. Last summer, management drafted Ryan Kelly straight off a foot operation to correct a broken foot that had never healed properly after a prior operation. The wait ultimately paid off, with the stretch-4 from Duke playing significant minutes in his rookie season.
The Lakers could afford to take a flyer on the No. 48 pick. There’s a lot more riding on their first lottery selection in nearly a decade, however. Management is hoping for as close to a bomb-proof pick as possible, with a roster currently consisting only of Bryant and Steve Nash—now in the twilights of their respective careers and coming off serious injuries—and Robert Sacre, the No. 60 pick in the 2012 draft.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—so says Newton’s laws of motion—which, for the purposes of the upcoming draft, means that if one top prospect slides, others will rise accordingly.
If Randle plunges on draft night, it will likely mean that Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh and Marcus Smart get picked ahead of him. And then what?
The end result could be a lottery shakeup with Los Angeles trading down for additional picks.
Or, perhaps they grab the double-double machine that just dropped into their lap—questionable foot and all.