Julius Randle’s play over the first 36 games of the Los Angeles Lakers season has turned a lot of heads. The former seventh-overall pick has increased his shooting efficiency while continuing to rebound like a madman, while also demonstrating the ability to ably run a fast break and take advantage of teams in transition.
One of the people Randle seems to have impressed most is his own general manager, Mitch Kupchak. He recently criticized some of the young Lakers for not showing enough effort, but Kupchak doesn’t appear to consider Randle part of that group after practically glowing about him to Mark Medina of the Orange County Register in a recent interview.
“He was a man amongst boys. He had several games like that. He has the competitive energy that I’d love to see in young players,” Kupchak told Medina. “That will get you a long way. He has to continue to grow skillwise on the court, when to bring it up, when not to bring it up and when to get to the hoop and when to shoot. But with that kind of energy and effort, he’ll be in this league for a long time.”
Randle has leveraged his strength, effort, and bulk in several ways this season, whether it be to shrug off contact on drives to the rim or level opponents with screens. Randle has been far better at the latter this season, as his 3.1 screen assists per game rank first on the Lakers and 20th overall in the NBA.
He’s also continued to clean the defensive glass like crazy. Randle pulls down 24.5 percent of opposing misses while on the floor, which ranks second on the Lakers behind Thomas Robinson, but Randle has done so for nearly 20 more minutes per game.
Randle’s strength will occasionally get him in trouble for offensive fouls and the like, but Kupchak is right to point out that he’s often looked to be playing with a different level of effort and physicality when he’s taken the court this season, and appears to have bright future ahead of him.
All stats per NBA.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.