The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night, and the lack of playing time for one of their most promising young players just added insult to injury. Julius Randle, who has only averaged 24.8 minutes per game since being moved to the bench 11 games ago, played just 19 minutes against the Hornets. Randle's averages of 10.4 points and 9.7 rebounds off the bench are actually impressive considering the limited playing time, but he has only shot 37.6% since the move while suffering from a severely clogged paint.
Randle's efficiency was good in his limited minutes against Charlotte, scoring 11 points on 4-8 shooting and even knocking down a three-pointer, a shot he has actually shown a willingness to take over the last 8 games. Randle is actually averaging 1.1 three-point attempts per game over that period and making 50% of them, after shooting just five over the entire season to that point, making none. He likely will not continue to shoot that percentage over a larger sample size, but his willingness and effectiveness while doing so could be an encouraging sign of added range for the young four man.
The increased threes have not led to Randle falling in love with the shot, as the young forward clearly knows he will make his bones around the rim, where 70.3% of his attempts have come from when playing off the bench. How does Randle manage to get their when dealing with the Lakers' spacing issues in their half-court offense? Against the Hornets, he did it in transition:
After receiving an outlet from Brandon Bass in the first quarter, Randle simply turned on the afterburners to beat the Hornets down the floor for an easy layup. It's not the flashiest play, but it is one way Randle can utilize his superior speed for a man of his size in order to get easy buckets.
On his second basket of the game, instead of leading the Lakers' fast-break, Randle acted as the trailer, smartly slowing down and allowing Lou Williams to suck in the Hornets who did manage to hustle back. Once Williams delivers the pass to Randle near the free-throw line, he already has a head of steam and was able to use his size and strength to take the ball right at rookie Frank Kaminsky and finish with his left hand.
On this last play, Randle shows the indirect advantage an improved outside shot would give him (in this case it was likely a rookie not really knowing his scouting report). In delayed transition, Randle receives a pass from D'Angelo Russell behind the arc, waits for Kaminsky to scramble at him, and then uses his explosive first step to drive past him into the paint and finish. Using his right hand on this basket would have been ideal, but that will (hopefully) develop with time.
"Just be aggressive, that's all I can do," Randle told reporters of his mindset when coming off of the bench, and he backed up that statement with his play on Monday night. Strong nights from Larry Nance, Jr. and Brandon Bass (who combined to miss one shot, with Nance, Jr. continuing the hot shooting from his breakout game against the Memphis Grizzlies) served to block Randle's path to more playing time on another night Lakers head coach Byron Scott benched some of his young players to win a game the Lakers would ultimately lose. If Randle continues to stay aggressive in the ways shown above though, his playing time will come eventually.
All stats per NBA.com