Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle has been the subject of trade rumors throughout his fourth season with the team, but not because he’s played poorly, as is the case with some players teams want to dump.
Quite the opposite has been true for Randle, who has actually been one of the Lakers’ best players this season. He is simply being rumored to be on the way out because he’ll be in line for a lucrative contract this offseason, which would inhibit the Lakers as they look to add two max-salaried free agents.
But instead of wilting under that pressure, Randle has mostly thrived, averaging 13.4 points and seven rebounds on the year and recently playing his way into the starting lineup.
After his latest start saw Randle go for 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the Lakers’ win over the Sacramento Kings, head coach Luke Walton couldn’t help but praise him for the progress he’s made offensively.
“He’s such a dynamic athlete that when he drives the lane but is under control, we always get something good. We might not always score, but we get something good,” Walton said. “Going against first-unit centers or power forwards, they’re bigger and more talented than the second-unit guys.
“What we talked to him about is constantly being under control and if the shot is there, go ahead and take it. But if they collapse that defense, look to pass out.”
The defensive end, however, is where Randle has made even bigger strides. Randle was seen mostly as a sieve during his first three seasons in the league. After an offseason that saw him get into the best shape of his life, Randle has mostly been great on that end of the floor, something Walton highlighted.
“Defensively, we asked him just to mainly do switching in the second unit,” Walton explained. “In my opinion, he’s one of the top bigs in our league at switching and guarding every position on the floor. In the starting lineup, we need him to play more traditional coverages and schemes.
“He’s gotten a lot better at that in the short amount of time that we’ve switched him into the starting lineup, as far as recognizing and calling out coverages. He’s been great for us and he’s continuing to improve.”
How much longer Randle’s improvement will benefit the Lakers is an open question, but for one more night at least, his talents helped them secure a victory.
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