There’s a new leader in Los Angeles and despite what some may think it’s not the D’Angelo Russell show. Kobe Bryant has been the man for so long, rightfully so that we tend to forget there were another 11 players in the same uniform. Last season was the Kobe exit season, but 2016 will be the real focus on the youngsters, and the Los Angeles Lakers have a few, but there is one in particular that has flown under the radar, until now.
In 2015 Julius Randle proved that he was worth that 7th overall pick in 2014. He missed what was to be his initial season due to injury but, playing as a true rookie last year he gave the Lakers a glimpse of what was to come for many seasons. The Lakers were all over the place in 2015 as everyone on the court either looked lost, was too focused on Kobe or had a hard time following the direction of HC Bryon Scott.
But times have changed. Kobe is gone, so is Scott which in turn means the leash should be taken off, let these young guys free, let them play basketball the Lakers way. Success this year will not come easy as a team, as there will be learning curves they will go through as the starting five will have only the veteran services of Luol Deng, who for most of his career has either been the second or third option himself. But Deng will be looked upon for leadership, while Randle will be leaned on for much more.
In 2015 Randle averaged 11 points and ten rebounds in 28 minutes of play. Scott, playing with the rotation on many occasions benched Randle as he played in 81 games but started just 60. This is a young kid that reminds me of Chris Webber; Lakers fans may hate that, but you can’t knock Webber’s production. The Lakers offense flowed through the backcourt, anytime you have a top 5 player as dominate as Kobe, the offense will flow through him, but in the process, it didn’t allow for the fans or the players to see the full potential of what Randle could do. Add to the fact that Scott was hard on PG Russell, who was to be the one feeding the ball into the low post, how was Randle to see more than ten shots per game?
The Western Conference has a few great PF’s in Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, just to name a few but those guys also get 33+ minutes per and average more than ten shots per game. With Scott gone, Randle should see an increase in minutes, thus resulting in an increase in production. If you have a player that averages 11 points and ten boards in your lineup, knowing he has a fair advantage over most of his competition you must take advantage of that.
Let’s not forget he was still a rookie last year on a team that played for a coach that had little to no faith in them. Now he has a new leader, a rejuvenated PG, a defensive-minded Center, an SF that can create his shot and an SG that understands the team first concept. It may be a crazy thought to say that Randle can make the All-Star team in 2016 but he is the Lakers most consistent scorer and if HC Luke Walton learned anything from his time with Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal is that a championship team can be built through the post.
You can look at the roster and see nothing but young guys with a Deng, or Lou Williams sprinkled here or there but this is the future of LA basketball, and it starts with Randle.