Is Julius Randle Set Up for Success with LA Lakers This Season?

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 3:  Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 3, 2014 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau /NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers' future got quite a bit brighter upon selecting Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in this summer's draft.

But what about the present? To what extent will the 19-year-old's impact be felt initially?

"Julius will get plenty of chances to play a lot of minutes," new head coach Byron Scott told Lakers reporter Mike Trudell. "We know he’s a rookie and needs to develop, and a lot of that will come in training camp and in practice. I think he’ll do just that."

That sounds like an optimistic assessment.

Randle will compete with 12-year veteran Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis for minutes at the power forward position, likely operating as next in line behind the former. Unless Boozer succumbs to injury at some point, Randle probably won't get a crack at the starting lineup.

All the same, Scott's prediction bodes well for Randle. With the Lakers looking for some fresh young blood to reinvigorate the rotation, the Kentucky product may come in handy.

His already well-developed skills certainly won't hurt. Nor will his 6'9," 250-pound frame.

EL SEGUNDO, CA - JUNE 30:  Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks to the media during his introductory press conference on June 30, 2014 at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

As a guest on the Dan Patrick Show (h/t Lakers Nation), Scott compared him to the similarly large Zach Randolph on account of his mid-range touch and ability in the low post. Others have noted even greater versatility.

After witnessing his work at Las Vegas Summer League, Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding observed that, "People who peg him as strictly a traditional, back-to-the-basket power forward are in for a surprise. More than Zach Randolph, the guys he resembled were Chris Bosh and Lamar Odom with an eagerness to face up and drive to his left."

Moreover, Randle can inject energy into Los Angeles' frontcourt.

"He's got a live motor with built-in navigation, given his energy and instincts toward loose balls," writes Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. "Interior activity is something he should offer L.A. from Day 1 on the job."

With Boozer turning 33 in November, Randle could offer a valuable change of pace. That motor could translate into the ability to affect games without the ball in his hands, a particularly important asset on a team with ball-dominating scorers like Kobe Bryant and Nick Young.

Indeed, even if Randle plays the kind of minutes Scott envisions, the touches he gets may be another story altogether.

Rookies rarely earn the mandate to demand the ball, and this rookie's opportunities could be all the more limited on a club looking to make significant strides after a disappointing 27-55 season that was marred by serious injuries to Bryant and point guard Steve Nash.

Randle might have to win playing time with scrappiness rather than prolific scoring displays.

That said, teams won't turn down some additional scoring off the bench. It could even be that a reserve role opens up more opportunities for Randle to attack.

He certainly has the instincts, according to Wasserman, who notes, "That's where Randle is most dangerous, whether he's facing up in the mid-range or from the elbow, where he can attack his man and finish with touch on the move. His first step is quick, while his body control is smooth."

Randle's proven production is undoubtedly one of the reasons Los Angeles believes in him. He averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest as a freshman, demonstrating a well-roundedness that should translate to the pro level when given the chance.

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07: Head coach John Calipari  reacts as Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats walks towards the bench during the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship against the Connecticut Huskies at AT&T Stadium on April 7, 2014 in Arlington, T
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

And while Randle only tallied 1.4 assists per game last season, he's still working toward improved handling and distribution.

"I think it's a part of my game," Randle said during summer league play, according to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan. "Whether it's create for myself or create for others, yeah, I think so."

Per Bresnahan, Lakers player development coach Mark Madsen added, "He's very difficult to guard because he's so good with the ball. He has the skills of a point guard in the frame and the body size of a 6-9, 250-pound man."

Should that playmaking ability come along, Randle could become all the more pivotal to L.A.'s second unit.

Already, coaches aren't the only ones praising Randle's talents.

"I think first you got to get in the league and see where you fit and find a niche for yourself," Boozer said, per's Dave McMenamin. "I watched Randle a lot in college. He had a great, great college run. Great rebounder. Great scorer inside and polished. But sometimes you just have to be thrown in the fire and play."

Lakers fans will join the chorus of Randle supporters soon enough.

He didn't exactly wow anyone during the Las Vegas Summer League but still averaged a solid 12.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game after four contests. That performance should be put in perspective, though.

As Bresnahan notes for the Los Angeles Times (via The Courier Journal), "Because of minor concerns about his right foot, which ended up not needing follow-up surgery from a procedure done while he was in high school, Randle barely even played two-on-two when the Lakers worked him out [in June]."

DALLAS, TX - MAY 22:  University of Kentucky power forward and projected lottery draft pick Julius Randle time at home with his mother Caroline, works out at the Michael Johnson Performance Center, revisits his high school Prestonwood Christian Academy, i
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

Bresnahan adds, "Just wait until he’s in shape, they say. And has a chance to study the offense. And settles in the city of Los Angeles."

That wait may not be long now.

Expectations should be measured, to be sure. There are several scoring options ahead of Randle in Los Angeles' pecking order, and playing time will likely vary from one game to the next. 

There will come a time when Randle may begin establishing himself as a legitimate star.

That time isn't now. This season—a learning season—is only the first step of many to come.


    NBA Suspends Ariza, Green 2 Games

    NBA logo

    NBA Suspends Ariza, Green 2 Games

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Alvin Gentry: AD Is Not Going to the Celtics

    NBA logo

    Alvin Gentry: AD Is Not Going to the Celtics

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Will Spurs Make Splash at Trade Deadline?

    NBA logo

    Will Spurs Make Splash at Trade Deadline?

    Dan Favale
    via Bleacher Report

    Rockets Deny Clippers Locker Room Feud Reports

    NBA logo

    Rockets Deny Clippers Locker Room Feud Reports

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report