Despite the club’s horrendous two-year run, the Los Angeles Lakers’ rebuilding efforts won’t be as arduous as this season’s on-court product suggests. Not only are the Lakers primed to make hay in free agency, but they’ll be bringing in another promising youngster to team with Jordan Clarkson and a likely top-five draft pick: Julius Randle.
The Kentucky product was Los Angeles’ lottery selection last June, and seemed primed to enjoy a solid rookie campaign before fracturing his tibia during the season-opener back in October. Last time we checked on Randle before the new year, the lefty forward was performing weight-bearing exercises on his surgically repaired right leg. And as perhaps the most important offseason of his hopefully lengthy career rapidly approaches, the 20 year-old looks ready to attack it with vigor.
Courtesy of Lakers Nation, below is video of Randle getting in a workout prior to his team’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. Needless to say, the footage is bound to whet the appetites of Lakers fans across the country.
Randle isn’t exactly going full speed, of course, and any NBA player would look good shooting on air and playing casual one-on-one with a staff member. But considering his injury was just over five months ago, that he’s moving completely uninhibited is cause for minor celebration by itself. And that Randle seems to be adding a three-point shot to his game? Drool.
Though he eventually led the young Wildcats to the NCAA Championship game his only collegiate season, we actually expected more from Randle in Lexington. He was an attacking, above-the-rim style power forward in high school, but mostly relegated to a somewhat traditional post player under John Calipari. The college game just isn’t a proper barometer for a prospect’s potential at the next level, though, especially for players who mostly thrive with space to operate.
With defenses stretched to a longer three-point line and greater scoring threats around him, might Randle realize his prep potential as an athletic, face-up 4? Range on his jumper would certainly help matters – he’s too quick for the vast majority of power forward to handle off the bounce, but that advantage can be mitigated by defenders giving him a cushion. That’s a losing strategy, however, if Randle can comfortably and consistently knock down shots.
Perhaps time away from the court allowed him to hone his stroke? It certainly looks effortless here.
Barring a starry free agent acquisition that seems highly unlikely, Los Angeles won’t be making the playoffs next season. This franchise needs to take one step at a time back to respectability, and the presence of Clarkson and a star rookie on the roster is one of them. And if Randle performs as well in his “sophomore” season as optimistic Lakers fans believe he will – and this video suggests – the Lakers will be farther along the path to contention than the vast majority of league followers anticipate.