With just three games left to play in his team’s season after their Friday night loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton took some time in his postgame press conference to praise Julius Randle for how much the forward has improved in his fourth season.
“I think his willingness to continue to grow as a player is really impressive.” Walton said. “He’s so dominant physically and he’s had so much success recently, I feel like if he wanted to, he could put his head down, get to the rim and score 30 points a night.”
But that’s not what Walton and the Lakers envision for Randle’s future. They want him to make others better with more than just his scoring.
“We’re asking more of him as far as him being a playmaker. Teams are collapsing so we want him making the extra pass out and slow down a little bit so he can read defenses more,” Walton explained.
“I think he’s done a really nice job of trying that. Sometimes it’s been great, other times we’ve had some turnovers because of it.”
Randle has turned the ball over on 13.2 percent of his possessions this season, the highest rate among any player to appear in more than half of the Lakers’ games and more than any other big man on the roster, so Walton isn’t wrong that there have been growing pains as he learns to be a better playmaker
Still, Walton and the team are willing to live with those issues because they and Randle know that he’ll never be able to reach his full potential if he doesn’t learn to both pass and score.
“It’s part of his growth as a player and his willingness to continue to try to do that is a nice characteristic for your players to have,” Walton said.
Whether the Lakers will continue to benefit from that characteristic after Randle enters free agency this summer is anyone’s guess, but regardless, it’s been impressive to watch the fourth-year forward deal with all of the adversity thrown at him this season and continue to improve.