Back in June, the Lakers selected 6’9 Power Forward Julius Randle with their seventh pick with the thinking that he could become a game changer for the franchise in need of a shot of youth. Since being drafted, Randle seems to be enthusiastic about playing with current Lakers star Kobe Bryant. But what rookie wouldn’t be? With Kobe possibly retiring in the next two years, Randle may be next in line to carry the torch and lead the Lakers into a new era. Yes, we are headed into the Julius Randle era. This potential new era could lead the Lakers in a new direction and style of play. Possibly in the fashion of a tough grit and grind culture that’s based on defense, rebounding, determination, and out working the opponent in all aspects of the game.
Randle has been compared to Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph. Randolph is an extremely gifted big man who possesses an outstanding post game on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor. It’s not a bad comparison for the Lakers rookie at all; this could also lead to the franchise to go through a complete make-over. Sure Kevin Love was the more attractive option, but Randle may be what the Lakers truly needed all along.
With Kevin Love off the market, the Lakers may not get the star they want next summer as well. It’s not a big deal, the building and gathering of assets should continue if it has to. Love was penciled in as the next guy to lead the Lakers it was no secret, but LeBron James gets what he wants in the NBA these days. Now Kevin Love is off to the Cleveland Cavaliers forming a new super team. Super teams fade out after a while, but winning culture sticks for years. That is something that the Lakers have to slowly build towards.
Love would have been the obvious star of the team, but that probably would have led to the departure of Julius Randle in a potential deal. They’re both power forwards with two different styles of play. Love is a stretch 4 who plays inside and out and while Randle operates strictly down low. The potential for Randle to develop into a stretch 4 is not out of reach, but he may not have to. He is extremely athletic and skilled, plus he can handle the ball like Blake Griffin. If he can further develop his post-game on both sides of the floor, plus with a vast amount of athleticism he may be more dangerous than Love in the next two or three years. He could also dictate how the Lakers play in the next few years and will have a vast amount of pride wearing the purple and gold.
Besides if Love was truly interested in playing for the Lakers, he would have kept quiet and played out the season in Minnesota. In a small and complicated world, Love is heading to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and will probably never don the purple and gold. It’s not the end of the world for the Lakers with Love now out of the picture, but it does pave the way for Julius Randle to potentially be the Lakers next star. Besides the Lakers love big men!
Having a big man in place is a great start for the rebuilding Lakers. It may not translate to wins right away, but success is never given over night. It’s very possible that the Lakers will be a bad team for the next several years or they could surprise everyone and be a dark horse team that no one wants to play. That’s what the Lakers should bank on for the next few years – being a dark horse team that gets under the skin of the contenders while playing tough and gritty.
The reality is the Lakers are going to have to be a tough grit and grind team that plays defense, rebounds, and plays scrappy. This is where Julius Randle will have to excel and show every Lakers fan that the tradition of winning is safe, even if the result is in the fashion of grit and grind.
Of course the grit and grind teams are kind of stale and sometimes boring, but they win and get under the skin of their opponents.
The days of “Showtime” and the Phil Jackson “Triangle-Offense” are over. A new identity is needed because the Lakers have hit rock bottom, and the only way is up. The franchise itself should turn the corner with its identity and style of play. They’ve always been a finesse team and franchise, but a guy like Julius Randle who plays hard and is tough could change the dynamic of what the Lakers as a franchise represent.
A change in pace is certainty needed for the Lakers who have depended on their star guards to carry a big load throughout the years dating back to Magic Johnson, and maybe it’s time to try a different image and style. The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the few teams that play grit and grind basketball, but maybe the Lakers could do better especially if Julius Randle is given the keys to the franchise and has a team that compliments him.
Julius Randle will learn a lot in his first year and could develop Kobe’s relentless work ethic. For a power forward with tons of upside along with star potential, it’s scary to think how good he could become. Changing a culture of finesse play is not going to happen overnight, but could happen over time. Tough and hardworking players will turn the Lakers around sooner rather than later, and Julius Randle may be a true game changer if he can help change the identity of an illustrious franchise that has been so dependent on flashiness and Hollywood. Even the stars need a make-over after a while.
Grit and grind may not be what the Lakers want to become, but if Julius Randle is the new star it certainly could happen. It may not be pretty and flashy, but it is a tough brand of basketball that could give the Lakers the respect and fear around the league.