The Los Angeles Lakers have been in constant search of a star to replace the declining Kobe Bryant for the past few summers. They have found themselves selecting in the lottery of the NBA Draft the past two summers and have swung out in their pursuit of big-name free agents like Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan just to name a few. Even though the Lakers have been unable to add an established star to their roster, they might not have to look much longer to find Hollywood’s next big thing.
Back in the 2013 NBA Draft the Lakers selected Julius Randle out of Kentucky with the seventh overall pick. Randle seemed poised to star in his first year in the league and help the Lakers get back to the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference.
However, his rookie season was cut short after he broke his right tibia during the season opener against the Houston Rockets. The freak injury occurred when he seemed to kick his leg from behind and he then sat there in disbelief; his season was over before it even really started. Randle was carted off the court during the fourth quarter of his first career game but not before Bryant patted him on the back and shared some words with the young man. Bryant, someone who is notorious for being cold towards rookies and new members of the team, gave Randle a moment of his time in a tough moment for the young power forward. This gesture proves that Bryant saw promise in Randle and could potentially trust him with taking over the team.
Randle came out of the NBA pipeline that is Kentucky basketball. As a freshman, he helped lead the team to an appearance in the national championship game against UConn. He averaged a double-double in his freshman season and set a freshman record for the number of double-doubles by a UK freshman, a record previously held by a pair of NBA All-Stars Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
The former SEC Freshman of the Year has recovered from his devastating injury and will look to make an impact on the young team.
Randle looked to be in good shape during summer league play and even though he was a bit rusty having not played for eight months, he was productive in his time on the court.
The power forward will fit the mold of a more new-age big man, especially when playing alongside newly acquired center Roy Hibbert who plays close to the basket. Randle has the ability to handle the ball and is efficient in transition. Randle has drawn comparisons to former Laker Lamar Odom due to his ability to stretch the floor and run up and down the court.
He has also shown glimpses of having a similar game to Lakers legend James Worthy. Worthy had the ability to power his way to the basket and then finish with finesse. Randle will have to strive on the offensive game with guards D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson looking to feed him the ball. Byron Scott has also recently mentioned that Bryant could see some time at the power forward position which would force Randle to play the center position in smaller lineups.
For Randle to develop into the Lakers’ next big star, he will have to continue to improve his offensive game and become a consistent option on that side of the ball. He does not have the length to become a dominant defensive force, but he will not have to next to Hibbert and he will be able to develop his scoring ability.
Randle is a solid jump shooter but in order for him to be a strong offensive weapon, he has to extend his range and create lanes for Russell and Clarkson to drive to the basket.
If Randle is able to stay healthy and become the offensive option that can take over for Bryant and play alongside the young guards on the team, the Lakers might not have to stress next summer when looking for a cornerstone of the franchise.