On a team that is not expected to be very good, the Los Angeles Lakers must focus on developing for the future. Fortunately, new head coach Byron Scott seems to understand where the priorities are.
I see a young man that's raw, but he has great feet and great quickness for his size, and he's strong as a bull. You can tell that he wants to get better. Next week we’ll have a better idea, because he’ll be in better shape and be able to work even harder. But I love those attributes, being strong, big and quick for his size. That’s a very good combination to have.
This is not the first time Scott had good things to say about the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft, who he considered a steal:
Byron Scott on Julius Randle: "To get him at 7 was a steal. The kid was probably top 3.” Also didn’t want to put expectations on him— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
He also compared him to Zach Randolph during an interview on The Dan Patrick Show:
However, the most important part of his talk with Trudell came when discussing playing time for the rookie, saying, "Julius will get plenty of chances to play a lot of minutes. 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."
What is Julius Randle's potential in the NBA?
The problem many players have in their first season is simply getting onto the court. Last year's No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett, came under a lot of scrutiny for his poor numbers, but a lot of that was due to only getting 12.8 minutes per game. With his numbers per 36 minutes, Bennett averaged a respectable 11.8 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Still, young prospects need playing time in order to improve. You can only learn so much in practice, but learning through mistakes can help you speed up your development. Not every rookie has that luxury, especially those on teams looking to contend for titles.
This is what makes Randle's situation such an encouraging one. While everyone wants to be on a winning team, a squad that finished 27-55 and lost Pau Gasol is likely headed toward another losing season. Even with Carlos Boozer and a healthy Kobe Bryant, this could be a long year in Los Angeles.
Shane Young of Hoops Habit thinks Randle will get extra minutes despite a number of other players capable of playing the position:
Julius Randle has the least to worry about in terms of opportunities with the loaded frontcourt. Byron Scott has judgement, & will favor him— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) July 24, 2014
Even if he struggles, just getting him on the floor will give him a chance to improve. This is more important for the Lakers' success in the future than winning a few more games in 2014-15.
On the plus side, Randle appears ready to be productive right away. Will Brinson of CBS Sports agreed with Scott's assertion that the Lakers got a steal with their draft pick:
Lakers picked a great year to be terrible. Julius Randle is a steal there.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) June 27, 2014
The forward showed off his ability in summer league after dominating college basketball as a freshman for Kentucky. He has loads of natural skill and the strength to be a force in the low post. Veterans like Bryant and Boozer will also help him get to where he needs to be.
Scott needs to do whatever it takes to help Randle reach his potential as a perennial All-Star. This should be one of the top priorities of the season, even if it comes at the expense of winning games. The fact the coach is willing to work with the young player and get him on the floor is a great sign for the future.
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