Draymond Green sat out of the Golden State Warriors’ 112-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, denying fans a glimpse of Julius Randle going against his fellow mobile power forward. This ultimately isn’t the end of the world, but Green’s presence in the lineup would have given Randle the chance to go up against a player that he’s mentioned he wants to play like several different times.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton has now coached both of them (albeit briefly, in Randle’s case), and he agrees that Green is a pedestal Randle should aim for.
“Absolutely,” Walton said when asked if Randle could be compared to Green. “I think it’s a good comparison. They’re both phenomenal athletes. They can pass the ball. Draymond is right now obviously a better shooter, but Julius puts in the time every day on that jumpshot, so I think that would be someone that you could compare him to down the road.”
Down the road is the operative phrase there, because despite Randle bursting on to Green’s radar last preseason by announcing he couldn’t guard him, he still has a long way to go before he reaches Green’s level (if he ever reaches it at all).
Walton cited the shooting as an area Randle needs to catch Green in, which is accurate. Green’s lack of ability or willingness to take a three-point shot during his sophomore campaign is actually similar to Randle’s, which offers hope the latter could grow in that department.
Both Randle and Green shot less than one three-pointer per game during their second seasons (per Basketball Reference), with Green shooting 29.7 percent to Randle’s 27.8. Randle was also two years younger than Green was during that season, meaning there is still time for him to improve.
It’s too early to tell for certain if Randle is getting better in this area (he’s missed the only two threes he’s taken during the preseason), but three-point shooting isn’t the only thing that makes Green such a devastating player. His playmaking ability as a big man is a huge part of it, which is an aspect of his game Randle is improving. Walton has liked what he’s seen so far in that department.
“[Randle’s] playmaking has been incredible when he gets out and pushes the ball,” Walton praised. “Any time he gets a defensive rebound good things are going to happen. He might not always make the shot, but we’re going to get an open shot when he gets the defensive rebound.”
But the thing that arguably makes Green most valuable doesn’t come on the offensive end. Green’s ability to guard any position on a switch, and credibly defend centers, is what allows Golden State to destroy teams with their vaunted “death lineup.”
Randle has gotten to play center a bit during the preseason, and while his defense has overall been better than last year, his effort was severely lacking against the Warriors on Saturday night.
The two were also hardly comparable during their second seasons. Defensive Win Shares aren’t a perfect statistic, but Green thoroughly laps Randle in this area. The Michigan State product put up 5.4 defensive win shares in his second year, compared to 1.9 for Randle.
Ever approximating Green (a freak of nature who despite having seldom been seen before in NBA history every undersized forward is now compared to) on defense seems unlikely, but if Randle can ever get close he’d be incredibly valuable even if his shot never came around. If it does, then Walton is right about comparing the two being worthwhile down the road.