If one thing seems crystal clear about watching Julius Randle, it's that his knack for playmaking is one of the most exciting things happening when he's on the court. He's averaging 2.7 assists in 20.9 minutes per game through preseason, ranking behind only D'Angelo Russell (3.2) and Marcelo Huertas (7) for the Lakers. He's throwing some flashy passes in that mix, sure, but he's also making good decisions as a facilitator.
Julius still has work to do as a player -- something he always talks about -- but playmaking seems to be something he does naturally. His mix of size, speed, strength and passing ability make him a great option to create in the offense. When Randle's drive-and-kick game is going, the Los Angeles Lakers perimeter players should be looking at open threes by the bucket.
That's why reading over an anonymous scouts' take on the Lakers, as provided by Chris Mannix, Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney of SI.com, was interesting. Much like other unidentified officials from around the league, pessimism seemed to be the prevailing thought on where Los Angeles is. Some of it is fair, but to say Randle isn't a playmaker seems too much an oversight not to take up.
Here's the full take, via SI.com (emphasis mine):
"They're still going to be really, really bad. I don't see Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass and Lou Williams as game-changers. The Lakers are in an identity crisis... Their focus should be on their young guys. That means D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson are the priorities. I'm worried that Byron Scott will ride the veterans instead and it goes down as a lost year. Scott has a lot of loyalty to Kobe Bryant and the organization... Kobe's presence and knack for scoring and the attention he draws still make him a plus player, even if his stats have fallen off a bit. Nobody else on that roster strikes fear in your heart... My main question with Russell is whether he can make decisions at this level. There's a big difference between being a good highlight passer and really running an entire offense. You need to know the playbook and understand when to involve your big guys, when to step forward yourself... Williams only makes their picture cloudier. He's good enough to take minutes from Clarkson, and that harms the long term while not adding a ton in the short term... Randle is the biggest question. People saw a lefty who has a knack for scoring on the block, and they wanted to call him Zach Randolph. But Randle hasn't done anything yet to say he's headed in that direction. There's some real bust potential. He needs to become a good scorer in isolation because he can't shoot three-pointers or make plays for others, and he's not a defensive lockdown guy... I don't see a single plus defender on the roster besides Hibbert."
To which I say let's all pump our brakes here a bit:
Maybe he still has to "prove" himself, but questioning him as a playmaker has those within Silver Screen and Roll skeptical, according to anonymous insiders around SB Nation.
We haven't done this in a bit, but Randle devoured a rebound against Portland, tore up the court with it, and finished off the sequence with a pass that, for someone who doesn't make plays for others, was pretty impressive:
A very nice play indeed, but I do want to point out something about this sequence that is easily overlooked here. This play happens because Randle tears the defensive rebound away to push the ball up court. Look how strong he pulls this board down:
If you're going to be called a T-Rex, make 'em pay for it.