Julius Randle, the No.7 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was expected to be the long term solution at the power forward position for the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, the former Kentucky star hasn’t translated his college success into the NBA.
Even though Randle averaged a double-double last season with a tally of 11.3 points and 10.2 rebounds, the forward was shown in poor light by all advanced metrics – both on offense and defense.
In fact, Randle was arguably the worst defensive player in the league among all forwards.
Julius Randle vs Larry Nance
Going into the new season, Randle faces stiff competition from Larry Nance Jr., who has become somewhat of a favorite for coach Luke Walton.
In recent weeks, Walton has showered praise on Nance, calling the Wisconsin product an “unselfish player” and a “team guy”.
Walton recently told Lakers beat writer Mark Medina:
“He’s (Nance) a great passer. He has phenomenal hands on the defensive end. And he always seems to be in the right place. He’s looking to make the right play before he’s looking to score 20 (points).
That’s something you need on your team. He’s a guy that makes those little plays that don’t end up on stat sheets all day long that make you end up winning the game.”
Seeing as Walton plans to implement a Golden State-type offense, a player like Nance could prove to be an invaluable asset since he plays with a low usage rate and high defensive IQ.
Randle, who has the higher upside, showed flashes of brilliance last season but frustrated Laker fans with his inability to finish at the rim with his weak hand.
Walton has made it crystal clear that every young player will be fighting for playing time, and that none of the players must take their spots for granted.
Expect Walton to start Randle when the preseason begins. However, if Nance Jr. outshines Randle while coming off the bench, it’s highly possible that Walton changes his plans at the start of the season.
There is also the possibility that Lakers trade Julius Randle close to the Feb. deadline, especially if DeMarcus Cousins is made available.