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People, including myself, are very critical of top draft picks even to a fault at points. Julius Randle is one of the former top picks who has experienced a lot of this criticism. Randle has been quietly silencing his haters over the last month.
Randle, of the Los Angeles Lakers, was picked by the Lake Show in 2014 with the seventh overall pick. As I said, high picks get tons of pressure placed on them and, in Randle’s case, going to a legendary team like the Lakers just added to that.
The former Kentucky product was labeled a bust pretty early in his career just because he wasn’t a star right off the bat. He got hurt 14 minutes into his very first NBA action, ending his season. In his sophomore season he averaged 11.3 points per game (ppg) and 10.2 rebounds per game (rpg) on 42.9% shooting. Not really the best for a big man, but no one really gave him time especially since he was the age of a junior in college.
His third season he improved his shooting percentage to 48.7% but people still were on his case. That has changed this season.
Since Los Angeles traded Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Randle has become a beast. In the month of February (Nance was traded Feb. 8), Randle averaged 19.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, and even showed off his passing ability by dishing out a little more than 4 assists per game.
In March he was even better. Randle averaged 22.3 ppg and 9.9 rpg, while shooting 56.8%. He even managed to score 25 or more five times in the month. Still think that this 23-year-old is a bust?
Randle is still on his rookie contract, but is a restricted free agent this offseason. It remains to be seen how the Lakers view Randle but based on his recent performance, someone is going to shell out money to the big man.
The Lakers do have the choice to match any offer thrown Randle’s way but I think their sights are set on bigger free agents. Whether that be this offseason with unrestricted free agents LeBron James and Paul George, or the 2019 offseason with guys like Klay Thompson or Karl Anthony- Towns (Towns will be a restricted free-agent). They already have plenty of future pieces like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma so that’s even more reasoning to expect the Lakers are going to try and get that bonafide star to potentially put them over the top.
Regardless of whether or not Los Angeles views Randle as a building block for the future, Randle has earned his money with his play this season.
Randle is going to be in the league for years to come but his career in a Lakers jersey is most likely over. Teams that can go after Randle are mostly compiled of the rebuilding teams. The Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks etc.
Whatever team gains the services of Randle is getting a competitor ready to make his name in the NBA. Randle has improved every single year in the league and he still young enough to become an all-star caliber player.
–Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)