From the moment the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Kentucky product Julius Randle seventh overall in the 2014 NBA draft, it was universally understood that the burly-but-versatile forward would have to improve his jump shot in order to reach his full potential. After losing essentially his entire rookie year to a broken leg, Randle spoke during the summer about how working out the kinks in his jumper was one of his top off-season priorities because of how it would open up the floor for him.
To begin the year the results were not promising, but the Lakers hired Tracy Murray (a career 43 percent shooter, 38.8 percent on three pointers) to work with their young roster, and Randle has been one of the coach's most eager pupils.
Murray spoke with Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News about Randle's recent progress since moving into the starting lineup, and he detailed the amount of work the Lakers' young forward has put in to improving a previously shaky jumper and how the two plan to continue to improve it during the off-sesason (emphasis mine):
"Right now with games involved, he has the routine where he'll shoot 20 shots each in five to seven spots... I was taking 800 to 1000 shots per day. I was a shooter. But he can't do that during the season. During the offseason, he can complete so many drills that we're going to be working on to broaden his shooting game. We're going to work on quite a few. We're going to shoot for that range.
Murray mentioned that the Lakers were sticking to a lower workload right now because Randle is still playing in games, but it makes sense for the two to ramp that up during the summer. Randle has already seen a recent spike in his field goal percentage, which could be a result of this extra work.
Over his last 14 games since taking Larry Nance, Jr.'s place in the starting lineup, Randle has shot 46.1 percent (as compared to his season average of 41.8 percent). He has also went 3-6 on threes, but that is an exceedingly small sample size, too small to attempt to draw any definitive conclusions.
Randle has finished more consistently around the rim since moving into the starting lineup, and while his jumper has not been an efficient weapon, it has been better (starting lineup percentage on the left, season averages on the right):
Randle has been far better right around the free throw line and the elbow as well. This improvement could be a random "hot streak" that will regress to the mean over more time, or it could be the first inkling that the second year forward is beginning to smooth out the edges in his game.
As Murray discusses, if Randle can make his jumper enough of a threat that defenses have to worry about it, it will make his drives that much more dangerous and effective. Whether or not Randle can do so remains an open question, but if this upward trend continues then the already elite rebounder could become a force on the offensive end next season.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.