Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has done it. Julius Randle has done it (multiple times). Even Draymond Green himself has done it. And on Friday before the Lakers host the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center, Pau Gasol compared his old team’s current power forward to Golden State defensive ace Draymond Green.
“He’s playing really well and is aggressive. He has talent and has skill and he’s hungry. He’s young. He’s putting up some real good games,” Gasol told Mark Medina of the Orange County Register of Randle before. “It fits their style perfectly, kind of like Draymond Green in Golden State. He’s a guy that can pass the ball, penetrate and will probably improve his jump shot as he goes forward as well. Great rebounder. He’ll be great. In the system, he’ll continue to flourish and evolve into a very good player.”
The comparison used to always seem like an overly optimistic, pie-in-the-sky scenario, but Randle’s play so far this season has made it seem like him approximating Green’s value at some point might not be completely impossible.
In three less minutes per game than Green played in his third season, Randle is averaging 14.2 points on a true-shooting percentage (which takes the added value of three-point shooting and free throws) of 60.9 percent while pulling down 8.7 rebounds and dishing 3.8 assists, all of which rank higher than Green’s 11.7, 54 percent, 8.2, and 3.7 in those respective categories. Green did, however, shoot better on three-pointers (33.7 percent to Randle’s 22.2 percent) and turn the ball over on a lower percentage of his possessions (13.5 percent) than Randle (19.6 percent).
Randle has posted a higher usage rate than Green (using 21.7 percent of the Lakers’ possessions compared to Green using 14 percent of Golden State’s), but that makes his shooting efficiency even more impressive (albeit in a small sample size) while partially explaining his higher turnovers.
Those offensive numbers are promising, even if Randle likely won’t continue to shoot 67.1 percent at the rim. What they don’t account for is the other side of the ball, where despite Randle’s improvement he still doesn’t come close to offering the value Green did.
In terms of box score numbers, Green averaged more blocks and steals (1.3 and 1.6, respectively) than Randle (0.7 and 0.9), and the more advanced metrics tell an even more clear story. Green’s defensive box plus-minus (not a perfect stat, but an illustrative one in this case) was four, meaning that Green contributed four defensive points per 100 possessions above a league-average player, compared to Randles’ 1.9.
Green’s Value over Replacement player (according to Basketball-Reference, “a box score estimate of the points per 100 team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement-level (-2.0) player, translated to an average team and prorated to an 82-game season”) was also 4.4 in large part due to his defense, a statistic Randle only provides a 0.4 in.
Those advanced numbers back up what the eye test makes obvious: Randle is not quite as good as Green yet, even if he’s beginning to get closer.
All of which is to say “so what?” Just because Randle is not Green yet (who it must be reminded was two-years older than Randle in his third season) is not some type of insult. He’s still a far superior player to the one he was last year, and turning into one of the Lakers’ best contributors on both ends of the floor.
At 22-years old, Randle still has plenty of time to continue to improve. Even if he never reaches Green’s level as a two-way contributor, the Lakers still have a pretty special player on their hands.
All stats per Basketball-Reference unless otherwise cited. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.