For some reason, there is a consistent trend to get overlook consistent and reliable players in favor of more spectacular and flashy talents in the sports world. Ask greats like Tim Duncan, who, while widely recognized as the greatest power forward of all time, has spent the entirety of his career in the shadow of bigger names like Shaquille O’ Neal and Kobe Bryant. Ask Craig Biggio, a member of the 3,000-hit club who flew under the radar due to big names like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds during the ‘90s. Need a more recent example? Ask Julius Randle.
In a college basketball season that brought us the two most hyped basketball prospects since LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Randle proved to be more consistent than both of them. While Andrew Wiggins was flip-flopping between stellar and subpar performances and Jabari Parker’s points per game average dipped going into ACC competition, Randle was a steady player, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game and putting up 24 double-doubles. Even during tournament time, Randle outshined his counterparts by averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds per game and driving his Kentucky Wildcats to the NCAA Championship game.
However, all of this was not enough to keep Randle from getting slighted once again, being overlooked in the draft in favor of less talented rookies such as Aaron Gordon, whose athleticism is the only upside in his game, and Dante Exum, who has more question marks surrounding him than the Riddler’s costume. Nonetheless, landing with the Los Angeles Lakers could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Randle.
Randle joins a franchise that prides itself on a rich tradition of excellent big men and a current roster where he could help right away while learning from some of the game’s greatest. Steve Nash might not be healthy enough to contribute on the floor the way he used to in his prime, but his greatest contribution could be helping to develop young Randle. The potential of this relationship could produce the same dividends as the one Nash had with a blossoming big man talent by the name of Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix. Nash was a crucial part in turning Stoudemire into an explosive force in the pick-and-roll. Randle possesses the same skill set and, with a little direction from Nash, could follow Stoudemire’s path and become a force to be reckoned with in the future.
In the short term, Randle will once again have to prove himself amongst a crowded Laker frontcourt with a variation of youth and veterans. If given the chance to play heavy minutes, Randle’s 15 and 10 will be more than enough to help a team projected to be at the bottom of the Western Conference win games and to put him in contention in the race for Rookie of the Year. Lakers fans can trust that Randle’s consistency will put him on top…like it always has.