Julius Randle Gives Lakers Something to Think About in Predraft Workout

Kevin Ding@@KevinDingNBA Senior WriterJune 17, 2014

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — In a business where you need steals in more ways than one to win big, the Lakers spent Tuesday morning deliberating plans for Julius Randle, once the nation's No. 2 high school recruit, according to Rivals, and now an option to be selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the No. 7 pick in this year's NBA draft.

In front of L.A. decision-makers Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak and their staff, the Kentucky forward had unquestionably a strong workout, according to those who studied it in its entirety. Randle also offered this nugget amid growing health concerns he speculates were floated by NBA execs hoping he drops to them.

"I met with the best foot doctor in the country, and he said he wouldn't do anything with my foot," said Randle, who had a screw inserted in his right foot two years ago because of a fracture.

The foot issue has become another minor concern for a player already carrying a red flag because he doesn't have the unlimited athletic upside of some of the other prospects. Still, the Lakers gambled on rookie Ryan Kelly's foot last year and survived.

When asked if his foot was OK on Tuesday, Randle replied: "Does it look like it?" He was similarly confident when prompted to compare himself to other top big man prospects, including Indiana's Noah Vonleh and Arizona's Aaron Gordon, whom the Lakers have already worked out, and possible No. 1 overall center Joel Embiid.

"How do I rate myself against them? I feel like I'm the best one," Randle said.

Figuring out who the best one is at No. 7 is the Lakers' challenge. Much of it will hinge on what Orlando at No. 4, Utah at No. 5 and Boston at No. 6 want after Embiid, Andrew Wiggins (Rivals' No. 1 prep prospect last year) and Jabari Parker likely go in the top three.

Marcus Smart's combination of strength and athleticism has become increasingly intriguing to the Lakers' front office.
Marcus Smart's combination of strength and athleticism has become increasingly intriguing to the Lakers' front office.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

But the Lakers are increasingly intrigued by point guard Marcus Smart, whose powerful style, being more like Russell Westbrook's, could be more important than Dante Exum's body being like Penny Hardaway's.

Meanwhile, Vonleh has enviable measurables—a 7'4" wingspan and the second-largest hands in the history of the NBA Draft Combine—and is also putting himself out there in group workouts for NBA teams to sell his pro readiness.

Randle acknowledged his rationale for going solo in workouts is to show scouts his skills after he "banged" all the way to the NCAA title game in his one college season.

Buss saw enough Tuesday to approach Randle for a handshake near the end of the workout, and Randle reciprocated by referencing the Lakers' "great owners" to reporters afterward. But the concern remains that Randle's banging won't fly as well in the NBA.

Randle was a man among high school boys en route to three state championships at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. Then, at Kentucky, he still was someone who could simply move collegians back in the lane with his frame and force as a freshman.

Julius Randle is trying to show in pre-draft workouts that his basketball skills run deeper than mere brute strength.
Julius Randle is trying to show in pre-draft workouts that his basketball skills run deeper than mere brute strength.USA TODAY Sports

The under-the-rim flip shots that won for Kentucky showed his touch but will often get eaten up by swarming, alert NBA defenses. Randle does have good athleticism that he's trying to improve by dropping his body fat right now, and he said he can play in a face-up kind of offense, too.

Randle worked out for the Celtics on Friday to go with other sessions for the 76ers and Magic. He'll be following up Vonleh's group workout in Utah with an individual one of his own and said he might visit Sacramento, though he likely would not work out.

What Randle did make clear is that even if he views himself as No. 1, there is a specific allure to being No. 7.

"I'm the biggest Lakers fan," he said. "Probably more of a Kobe fan."

Randle's developed game promises to help Kobe Bryant more right away than other prospects, but Bryant actually figures to operate more in the post going forward than most comprehend. As much as the Lakers need size, a driver such as Smart might be a better complement to Bryant, though the Lakers aren't about to make such a huge decision on anything but the biggest long-term pictures.

They'll host more prospects Friday and try to develop their vision further. The draft is June 26.

Kevin Ding covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.