Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle’s game saw some pinches of regression after a strong start to the season, and one can accredit that to the Lakers’ starting backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, along with other rotation players such as Larry Nance Jr., and Tarik Black being picked off by injury.
With Russell and Young sidelined the Lakers lost two of their top-five scorers along with the savvy playmaking ability of Russell, which caused their once crisp offense to grow stale.
Randle, who has shown he is capable of manning the offense in spurts, was burdened with more facilitation duties and it ultimately hindered his game.
Randle thrives in transition. It’s a domain where he becomes the basketball version of a battering ram, using his brute strength to power past defenses and throw up quirky left-handed shots that somehow go in. He’s shown the ability to make plays in quick-hitting scenarios and the open-court, but his half-court quarterbacking needs polishing.
In the 14 games prior to Russell and Young’s injuries, Randle advanced metrics were strong. His offensive rating was at a 108, he was registering an assist percentage of 20.8% and his usage rate clocked in at 21.6.
When the Lakers’ two starting guards went down, so did Randle’s numbers. I called it the Recession of Randle.
Offensive rating? Down to a 91.5. Assist percentage? Ah, that plummeted to 15.9%. Turnover percentage? Well of course that soared from 14.4% to 19.4%. This is all as his usage rate crept up to 23.
In terms of basic numbers, Randle was at 14.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.6 turnovers on 54% shooting pre-team injuries. After the ailment wave came crashing upon Staples, Randle’s numbers dipped to 11 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 3.5 turnovers on 42% from the field.
Since the return of Los Angeles’ regular cast, Randle’s game has returned to its previous state. He’s resumed his role as “Bullyuis,” which has boded well for he and his team.
In his last five games Randle is averaging 13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 50% from the floor. Boil it down to his last two, and his numbers are meatier than a can of Campbell’s Extra Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup.
20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists on 64% shooting is what Randle has done over his last two, including a season-best 25-point performance against the Philadelphia 76ers last Friday. He punished Jahlil Okafor who plodded around on defense leading to Philly’s demise, and Randle caught the Cleveland Cavaliers by surprise, besting whomever they threw in front of him. Randle will look to continue his strong stretch of play on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles is in the midst of a seven-game road trip, with a stop in Charlotte where they will take on the Hornets. Charlotte has dropped four out of their last five, and are returning home after their own five-game roadie.
Basketball mythos says that a teams first home game after a road trip is one where the opposition can sneak out a win, so we’ll see if the Lakers can capitalize on a Hornets team looking to get re-acclimated to the comfy confines of home.
If Russell and Young’s injuries taught head coach Luke Walton anything, it’s that he cannot bestow the type of offensive obligations upon Randle that he could a Draymond Green, who Walton coached with the Golden State Warriors and has also expressed his desire for Randle to emulate on the floor.
Randle’s half-court orchestration skills and spotty jumpshot need some refinement before reaching Green’s stature, but the intangibles are there.
Los Angeles closes out their road trip against the Heat and Magic before being gifted a five-game homestand which starts on Christmas Day against the Clippers. With home on the horizon, lets see if Julius Randle can build on this strong stretch of play and continue to be one of the main driving forces of this young Lakers team.
*All stats per NBA.com/stats
Hit me on Twitter: @wcboyer24