After breaking his leg mere minutes into his rookie season, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to temper their expectations for Julius Randle, but the sophomore was solid in his first full season in the pros. Randle averaged a double-double of 11.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over the course of the 2015-16 season, with his rebounding ability (grabbed a team-leading 32.7 percent of opposing misses while on the floor) standing out most.
Randle's debut wasn't all positives, however. He shot just 42.9 percent from the field and often struggled defensively over his first 81 games, but to his credit, it sounds like Randle knows he has to improve. While he doesn't sound like he'll be making that improvement in Las Vegas Summer League, Randle told Jovan Buha of ESPN.com that he is hopeful that his time working with Luke Walton can help him emulate the success of another power forward who progressed on Walton's watch:
Heading into the summer, a common comparison for Randle has been Warriors All-Star forward/center Draymond Green, as both have similar frames and skill sets, including ballhandling and passing abilities typical of much smaller players.
Green has publicly stated how important Walton was for his development, and Randle believes he will have the same experiences playing in a similar role to Green in the Lakers' new schemes.
"Obviously there are a lot of similarities between Draymond and myself," Randle said. "There will be a lot to learn, but especially with the style of play, it'll be fun for us to get up and down. Sharing the ball is going to be big for us this year. Just building that chemistry on both sides of the floor."
It's here we have to note that player comparisons are mostly pointless, no two players are exactly alike and comparisons between two of them are generally painting in extremely broad strokes. With all that said, Randle and Green do boast some of the same strengths mentioned by Buha. Green is much better at them as of right now, but it doesn't mean Randle cannot improve, especially if Walton really was as critical for the Michigan State product's development into one of the top players in the NBA as Green says he was.
Offensively both players do boast a strong handle, and while Randle's could use some tightening, it's easy to envision him igniting fast breaks in Los Angeles like Green does for Golden State. It's passing where Randle has a long way to go to catch Green, but there are reasons to hope he can get better.
Green became a nightly triple-double threat in large part due to his improvement as a playmaker. According to Basketball Reference, Green improved his assists per game and assist percentage in each of his four seasons in the league, culminating with a career-high 7.4 assists per game while assisting on 29 percent of his teammates' field goals during his floor time in the 2015-16 season.
Randle is still younger right now than Green was entering his rookie season, leaving plenty of room for improvement on the black hole tendencies he displayed this year. Randle averaged 2.3 assists per 36 minutes over the 2015-16 season, more than the 1.8 Green averaged during his rookie year, albeit on a higher usage rate (21.2) than Green was allowed during either his first or second season.
Randle's playmaking did improve towards the end of the year, with the forward averaging 2.9 assists over the final 15 games after averaging 1.8 on the year. He will need to continue to get better, but that is a stretch of play those who hope Randle is going to emulate Green's growth can point to for hope he will continue to get better as a passer now that he's working under a coach who was known primarily as a facilitator during his playing career.
Green is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, still lightyears ahead of Randle on that end of the floor as of right now, and combining that with his offensive growth have made taken him from a second round pick to being seen as one of the top players in the entire league. It's unreasonable to project that ceiling for Randle right now, but if he can approximate some of Green's skills under Walton it will allow him to remain a valuable piece of the Lakers' young core going forward.
All stats per NBA.com unless otherwise cited. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.