After watching Julius Randle rumble his way to 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 117-114 preseason loss to the Utah Jazz earlier this week, Kobe Bryant had some high, high praise for his young teammate.
“He’s Lamar Odom in a Zach Randolph body,” the future Hall of Famer told the L.A. Daily News.
That incredibly rare amalgam was a common and optimistic comparison for Randle leading up to the 2014 draft. He’s a lefty, of course, and is equally capable of grabbing a defensive rebound and starting the break as beasting opponents on the block – if he reaches his potential, that is. From a standpoint of raw physical tools, Randle certainly fits the bill of Odom and Randolph.
But anyone expecting the 20-year-old to play like it in what will basically amount to his rookie campaign is fooling themselves. Acclimating to the speed, physicality, and nuance of the NBA game is a bear for young players. And while a season spent sitting on the sidelines and learning from Bryant certainly gives Randle an edge in that department over other youngsters, it also doesn’t completely flatten his learning curve.
If his play during the Lakers’ early exhibition slate is even somewhat indicative of what he’ll bring to the table during the regular season, though, Randle seems primed for big things in 2015-16 – and certainly going forward. His ability to make plays in space is extremely impressive for a player his size, and hints at the monster theoretical player to which Bryant compared him.
How many 6’9, 250 pound players are there in basketball who can attack a close-out with straight and side-to-side drives? How many can weave through traffic dribbling up the floor in transition? Randle already can, and has the potential to emerge as both a threat from beyond the arc and a versatile, valuable defender, too.
Does that make him Odom in Randolph’s body? Not yet. But considering his aggressive, effective play for Los Angeles in the preseason, it’s not quite crazy to believe Randle might get there eventually.