As soon as Luke Walton was hired to be the 26th head coach of the Lakers, a certain Laker has been mocked up to be the next Draymond Green. No, not Robert Sacre. Not upcoming Tarzan star, Ryan Kelly. If you guessed Julius Randle, you’re right, but I don’t have any special prizes to give out. After the front office brought in Walton, Lakers fans were cathartic in voicing how the 21-year-old power forward could emulate the Golden State’s Green with both players most notably having a similar motor and build. Randle’s youth and work ethic will be key in Walton’s molding of his game. While it would be foolish to think Randle will be an exact replica of Draymond, Julius can come close with Luke’s help (and maybe a bit from Wanderlei Silva).
(Note to self: if Julius Randle becomes the next Draymond Green, would he be able to guard himself?)
New Lakers head coach Luke Walton was a stat sheet stuffer during his playing day, when healthy. The first former Wildcat would often fill up the box score with a few points, some rebounds, and assists to boot. If there was anything notable about the Julius Randle’s 2015-2016 campaign, it was his ability to clean up on the boards. Randle led all sophomores in rebounding by a wide margin. One thing that pops out to the eye, though, is his assist numbers. Julius was second to Andrew Wiggins in total assists by second-year forwards. Randle began to show flashes of a playmaking big later on in the 2016 season. Over his last 13 games, he averaged 3.1 assists and had a triple-double as a cherry on top.
Walton can have Julius’ distributing game make strides in transition. Randle has already shown the ability to pull down a rebound and bring it down the court with great speed; further developing his court vision would be a dangerous wrinkle in the other former Wildcat’s offensive repertoire. Walton’s track record of turning bigs into more versatile players (at all levels) is very encouraging when you look at the player/coach pairing of Julius and Luke. Randle is an absolute gym rat with a sponge for a basketball mind. A coach like Walton could do wonders for his basketball IQ.
Surely, if you’re Julius, it must be tough to properly find open teammates when you’re running 100 miles per hour down the floor. Both Draymond Green and Luke similarly have (or had, in Walton’s case) that unique ‘coolness’ about them in the open court when it comes to running the break. The two players would find the right guy coming down the court, or fill the right lane in following the break’s ballhandler. If Coach can help to relay some of his well-known calmness onto Julius, the Lakers should have a well-oiled machine on the fastbreak.
Luke showed an innate sense of where to distribute the ball, something that Randle has shown small glimpses of. Walton’s offense will be more free flowing, instead of the ball-stopping, iso-heavy offense that Julius has had to play in during his rookie* year. Maybe a more transition-friendly offense could be just what the former seventh overall pick needs. (Hell, it’s what everybody needs after watching the foxhole halfcourt offense for two years.) Randle has mentioned several things to LA Daily News’ Mark Medina about his new head coach.
“I’m excited about it. It’s a fresh start for us all,” Randle said. “Luke is going to be great for us and establishing the style of play we want.”
A frontcourt player that can act as a playmaker will be what makes Luke’s offense tick. When he wasn’t running an iso, Julius showed some touches of unselfishness with the ball, a quality that Luke should be able to bring about with the rest of this team.
For instance, when Randle brings the ball up the court here, he sees the defense clustered and none of his teammatess running the floor. He shows good awareness soon after, dropping the ball off to a trailing Jordan Clarkson. Julius has already shown a knack for getting to the rim in transition with his unique combination of strength and speed, but he can’t be afraid to give up the ball if he wants to help this team succeed.
In this play, Julius sees a rolling Roy Hibbert (who catches the ball and finishes!) and quickly hits him with a touch pass. Randle showed great court vision, a quality that his new coach was often praised for as a player. Walton will encourage him to keep setting up his teammates with passes like that.
We could end up seeing many more plays like this one from Julius’ triple-double game against Denver.
Randle does a good job of looking off the defense and quickly throws a pass to Clarkson for an easy deuce. (Word to Stu Lantz.) Coach Walton will be more creative in his sets, opening the door for his players to move the ball and score points with more relative ease.
Walton will be able to connect with Randle on a personal level in order to get him to buy in, that is if ‘Don Julio’ hasn’t already. At the very least, he’ll relate to the young Lakers more so than He Who Must Not Be Named. Luke has a keen ability to get key points home by talking to players without yelling and negative reinforcement. That is crucial in any young player’s development, and could very well bring Julius to fully expand his ability to dish the rock.
In order for the floor to open up more for himself, Randle’s jump shot is the first thing that needs to come along. Without a respectable jumper, defenses will sit back and guard the passing lanes, essentially daring Randle to shoot. While he was more confident down the stretch in taking his shots, Julius still couldn’t get many to fall last year. A lot of it had to do with inconsistent mechanics and hesitation to pull the trigger on an open shot, two things an offseason in the gym may help to correct. When the shots start to fall for Randle, that’s when defenses start getting scared of the young bull. A decent shot will not only allow the Lakers to have better spacing but it would force defenders into guarding Julius more tightly outside of eight feet, opening up opportunities to distribute the ball or to blow by his opponent with his aforementioned speed.
Arguably the most well-known aspect of Luke’s game was his savvy, or smarts on the court. He would pick the right spot for his shots, find the open guy in the corner, and see a teammate streaking down the lane. Knowing the right time and not hesitating to take the shot will prove to be big in Julius’ shot development. Luke knows basketball as well as any 36-year-old can, and he’ll without a doubt let on all of his nuances about the game to Julius. If anything, Walton will give Randle the confidence he needs with his jumper. Julius, with great joy, has already talked about the back and forth he’s had with his new coach. In the same conversation with Medina, he shared this little tidbit.
“It’s great to have a coach to believe in you,” Randle said. “I think that’s key, not only for the success of the player, but for the success of the team for a coach to believe in his players. We’re excited and all ready to get back to work.”
Who knows what some positivity could do for Julius’ game? That quote is telling about the kind of coach Luke is. Not only will the players develop under him, but Walton himself will grow as a coach along with his new team.
Luke Walton and Julius Randle can be a match made in heaven. They’ve already begun the process of establishing a relationship, and the entire offseason is ahead for the pair. Seeing how far Julius’ (and other players’) game comes when it’s time for the season to open up will be exciting for many Lakers fans. Mitch Kupchak has already said he wants the team to play exciting basketball. Well, he has put together a roster with an exciting head coach and a bevy of young, talented players. An exciting brand of ball is what we are going to get at the very least. Of all the players on the team, Julius Randle has the most to gain with Luke Walton coaching the Purple and Gold.
*All stats from NBA.com. Quotes from LA Daily News.