The Los Angeles Lakers struggled over their prior two losses before their Christmas Day win over the LA Clippers. Not coincidentally, Julius Randle missed both of those contests to be with his fiancee for the birth of their child, and Lakers head coach Luke Walton doesn’t think it’s just happenstance that the team looked a lot better with Randle back in the lineup.
“He's huge for us. What he can do defensively, and the amount of positions he can guard, and the way he pushes the ball, he adds a whole nother element,” Walton told reporters after the Lakers’ practice on Monday. “He adds dimensions on both sides of the floor for us.”
Randle has been far better on defense this season than he was during his first full campaign during the 2015-16 season. He can ably switch onto and bother guards at times, an element of the Lakers’ defense Walton was particularly impressed with against the Clippers.
The Lakers have been slightly better defensively with Randle off of the floor, but that’s partially skewed both due to Randle playing so many minutes with a starting lineup (which hasn’t defended well) and so often being replaced by Larry Nance, Jr. (who is a superior defender).
Randle has additionally used his rebounding a ballhandling skills to make himself and dynamic threat in transition, a threat the Lakers simply don’t have when he’s not on the floor.
With Randle seemingly healthy and his family’s new addition taken care of, the Lakers won’t have to worry much about life without their versatile forward for some time.