Earlier this season I wrote about Lakers forward Julius Randle and how his reluctancy to dish the rock often stalled out Los Angeles’ offense. In addition to Randle’s passing hesitancy, his game was (and still is) hindered by his inability to consistently shoot from the outside and finish with his right hand.
In the opening months of Randle’s first true campaign in the Association, he’d shy away from open midrange jumpers in lieu of forceful attacks of the hoop, which always came back to his left hand. These basket blitzes spawned varied results for Randle, as some would generate “ooh’s and ah’s,” and other wild attempts left fans scratching their heads as to what the former Kentucky Wildcat could’ve possibly been thinking.
Then midway through the season, Randle, along with Los Angeles’ No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft D’Angelo Russell, were both relegated to the role of super-subs by Lakers head coach Byron Scott, and the former was in a revolting offensive rut.
During a 17-game stretch spanning from December 11th-January 12th, Randle averaged 8.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game on 34% shooting from the field. Although his rebounding numbers never tapered off, the frustrations began to amass for Randle and some began foolishly chirping about the possibility of him being a bust. It was evident that his confidence had abandoned him, and Scott’s method of nurturing the Lakers’ young pups was puzzling.
Randle’s reinsertion into the starting lineup didn’t come until January 17th, after Larry Nance Jr., the guy who had been penciled in over Randle as a starter during the aforementioned timeframe, was forced to miss time with an ailing knee.
Being dubbed a starter once again has done wonders for Randle, as he’s seen an uptick in all major statistical categories (13.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 46% field goals) since being placed back in the starting five. Most notably Randle is shooting the ball from the outside with much more confidence and improved mechanics, as his leg-fluttering line-drive jumpers have (mostly) become a thing of the past.
Since the All-Star break, Randle is shooting 42.9% (3-f0r-7 FG) from 10-14 feet. Yes the sample-size is rather minuscule, but if you’ve watched Randle you’d know that stats should be of minimal bearing here. It’s the fact that he’s locking-and-loading from midrange with no hesitation that’s encouraging. He’s no longer overthinking or allowing his self-assurance to waver due to the fact that a defender chooses to sag off of him and dares him to let it fly.
In terms of metrics, there aren’t many to support my notion that Randle has improved as a jumper-shooter and that’s fine, because for me this is one of the rare occurrences in which I will say the eye-test trumps the numbers, as I believe both of are equal importance. Randle has improved in the sense that he’s not as bashful from the perimeter as he was earlier in the year.
Randle recognizes that his career trajectory depends on his ability to shoot, and I hope each brick seeps deep into his mind, but not in a discouraging sense.
I want those misses to infuriate him to the point where he works tirelessly on his shot, effectively becoming a more respectable threat from that area of the floor. He’s shown strides by embracing jumpers, and a summer of practice should prove to do wonders for Randle. Small enhancements have been made so far, and I’m not anticipating Randle to creep into the upper echelon of jump shooting big’s with one summer of reps, but his ability to rectify that area of his game will be a huge factor in Randle reaching his ceiling in the proverbial house that’s been built thanks to his hundreds of bricks this season.