Entering the biggest season of his career, Julius Randle’s future in Los Angeles is uncertain. A productive player, Randle was recently benched by head coach Luke Walton, with Larry Nance Jr. starting the first two games of the season. In Friday’s 132-130 win over Pheonix, Randle would play just 12 minutes, a number any player in a contract year would be unsettled by. Does Randle have a future in Los Angeles? Or will he be the second young Laker to fall victim to the team’s cap space goals?
Julius Randle Has Become the Odd Man Out in Los Angeles
Is Randle Improving?
Fans in Los Angeles are becoming frustrated with Randle. His lack of development has some worried if he will ever fulfill his potential. In the team’s first two games of the season, Randle left fans questioning if he has a future with the franchise. Lackluster defense, lack of effort, and an overall disconnect from the rest of the team. Body language is important, and Randle does not look engaged right now. Fans may be frustrated, but so is Randle.
Luke Walton just blew up on Julius Randle after pulling him out. UPSET is an understatement. Luke usually doesn't do that during games.
— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) October 20, 2017
Said to be “frustrated” coming off the bench, Randle is concerned he will never discover his true role in Los Angeles. In an interview with Bill Oram of the OC Register, Randle had this to say:
“How they value me is how they value me. I can’t really sit here and say what they’re trying to do.”
It is clear Randle is irritated by the situation, and it is beginning to show in games.
Julius Randle just picked up 3 fouls in like 11 seconds.
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 21, 2017
So, is Randle improving? Simple answer, no. A predictable player in the post, Randle relies too much on his left hand, forcing him into difficult situations. One handedness is just one of many problems with Randle’s game. When drafted, the Lakers knew Randle could not shoot. Every off-season since being drafted, this aspect of his game has been worked on. However, improvement has been minor at best, with Randle still an unreliable shooter.
2018 Free Agency
The NBA season may have just started, but the Lakers are planning in advance. Magic Johnson has been installed as President of Basketball Operations, with the aim of building a playoff calibre roster. Expected to pursue star talent, the Lakers must free up sufficient cap space if they want to lure a big name. Clearing the Timofey Mozgov contract in the off-season, the team still has Luol Deng’s deal on the books. Young star D’Angelo Russell was sacrificed in order to clear the Mozgov deal, as teams who take on these awful deals need an extra incentive. Randle could be one of those young players dealt.
With names like LeBron James and Paul George mentioned, the Lakers have found their direction. Free agency is seen as the key to the team returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Randle is a talented young player, a player any team would be glad to have. However, with the team failing to find his ideal role within the team, his future is on shaky ground.
Is There Any Hope for Randle?
Just like all NBA players, there is always hope. Randle’s future will be determined by his production, flexibility and most importantly, his attitude. The Lakers know Randle is talented, yet there are more questions than answers. In his place, Nance has had two good games. Averaging 14 points and nine rebounds per game, Nance has something Randle lacks; hustle. Known mostly for his dunks, Nance brings a valuable skill set to the table. A tireless worker, Nance can run, jump and compete like few others in the league. USA Today’s Alex Kennedy sums Nance up perfectly:
Larry Nance Jr. (@Larrydn22) will have a very long NBA career. Every team can use a guy like him. He was a steal as the No. 27 pick in 2015.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) October 20, 2017
Not only does Randle have to fight off Nance, he also has a determined rookie in Kyle Kuzma breathing down his neck. Kuzma had a great summer league and preseason, with the first-round pick starting the season well also.
We have only played two games, so there is no reason to overreact with Randle. Time will tell whether or not the former five-star recruit has a long-term future in Tinsel-Town. But we must remember one thing; attitude is everything in this league. With attitude playing a big role in Russell being traded, could history repeat itself once again?