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Lakers season preview: Julius Randle will fit right in

Julius Randle has huge expectations to live up to but should fit right in with the Lakers' culture.

Brian Babineau, Getty Images

Searching for franchise centerpieces is hardly easy, even for the recently-humbled Los Angeles Lakers, who boast a storied history of acquiring championship talent. Whether browsing free agents, gauging the ever-changing trade market, or playing the game of Russian Roulette that the NBA Draft is, preparing for tomorrow requires equal parts diligence and blind luck. Sometimes, if you're lucky -- {cough} Cavs! {cough } -- all three elements blend into one magical pot of enviable fortune, allowing you to go from zero to hero in one (or several) fatal swoops. It's why we love the NBA -- anything can happen.

The same, on a lesser scale, goes for the Lakers and their prized rookie, Julius Randle. The seventh-overall pick isn't the athlete Andrew Wiggins is, or the do-it-all virtuoso many expect Jabari Parker to become, but that doesn't make him any less a perfect fit for purple and gold. When Randle fell to the Lakers this past June, many couldn't help but exclaim how lucky the franchise was, especially given their past two seasons. Missing the postseason and failing to recruit any big names the past two summers has placed the Lakers among the NBA's transient, searching for a direction while seeking comfortable footing. In Randle, the Lakers are allotted an NBA-ready prospect with an eye on both today and tomorrow.

In Kentucky, Randle recorded a school-record 24 double-doubles, surpassing Dan Issel's 23, as well as Anthony Davis' and Demarcus Cousins' 20. It was a pleasant surprise when such a proven commodity fell behind relative unknowns Dante Exum and Aaron Gordon, but hey, finders keepers. The Lakers, and their fans, will be happy to add a punishing rebounder sporting a 35-inch vertical, deft touch around the rim, and, I must say, nifty ball-handling to boot:

What the Lakers need from their prized rookie is for him to fit in by standing out

Considering Kobe Bryant still brandishes the keys to the driver's seat, the Lakers don't need Randle to step in as an All-Star or Rookie of the Year candidate, though they're both respectively welcomed. What the Lakers need from their prized rookie is for him to fit in by standing out, as their rare lottery picks normally do. The Lakers have made four top-ten selections since 1979, and each (Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Eddie Jones, Andrew Bynum) have developed into All-Stars in Los Angeles. Eventually, Randle will continue that trend, especially once the Lakers graduate him from pupil to teacher. Until then, he will do fine as a reserve -- at least until the Carlos Boozer experiment is done -- and he'll further energize a second unit with Lin, Young and Xavier Henry looking to wreak havoc on less-athletic benches. Randle's nose for the ball, and penchant for holding himself accountable, will allow him to almost seamlessly transition into the NBA game, where rebounding will always be at a premium. He averaged 13.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, per Sports-Reference, sandwiched between Cousins (16.8) and Davis (13.0), respectively.

Lakers season preview

Also fortunate for Randle is the Lakers' middling state -- an antithesis to the annual contenders he grew up idolizing. Beyond him, there are no certified gems for the future. Jordan Clarkson, by all means, could develop into an NBA guard, or he could not. The Lakers could keep their 2015 first-rounder, or they could not. Just about everything regarding the team's present existence is based on a myriad of hypothetical scenarios. Randle, of course, must allow his defense to catch up to his offense, and how he develops as a passer rightfully affects just how far his offense carries him, and, ultimately, the franchise. Talent is what earned the Lakers' trust, and commitment to excellence is what will earn the aforementioned accolades.

Alongside Bryant, Randle will further hone that commitment to excellence, a welcome sight for a lifelong Laker fan.

"Now I have a chance to pick his brain and learn from him," Randle says. "I couldn't ask for a better situation."

Not many can, even as the Lakers come off their fifth missed postseason since 1959 with another frustrating campaign to come. Fortunately, there's a light at the end of this darkened tunnel, brightened by glowing jerseys and inevitably validated optimism. Randle's confidence will take him a long way, beyond the Lakers' current cellar-dwelling and broken state.

"[My 2K rating] got to be a 99," he recently told Lakers Nation. "It's got to be. There's no other way."

While that's another item to put on tomorrow's checklist, Randle's confidence, NBA-ready pedigree, and nifty dribbling illustrate the Lakers, per usual, will remain in fine hands. Gotta' love the NBA.

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