Julius Randle’s Struggle off the Bench Is Troublesome for Los Angeles Lakers

Ever since December 7, when Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott removed Julius Randle from the team’s starting lineup, L.A. has played much better with its second-year lottery pick off the court. Heading into Tuesday night’s win over the Denver Nuggets, the team was “only” outscored by 9.4 points per 100 possessions—versus a net rating of minus-22.9 when he played—per NBA.com.

In Denver, Randle scored eight points, grabbed 10 rebounds and looked increasingly uncomfortable through the first three quarters before a few spurts of production in the final frame. It was more of the same for a talented youngster who one day may still become the Lakers’ best player: inconsistent two-way effort meshed with an unpredictable, toothless attack.  

The Lakers rebound the ball better on both ends with Randle on the court, but that might be the only positive takeaway from these last couple weeks, where we’ve seen his individual efficiency plummet. Randle shot 43.3 percent in his first 20 games this season. Over the past seven, he’s down to 38.8 percent (and just 50 percent in the restricted area) despite spending more and more time against flimsy bench units.

His box-score numbers are all over the place (a 20-point, 12-rebound effort against the Minnesota Timberwolves was followed by a four-point snoozer against the San Antonio Spurs), and while labeling his stats as empty calories is a bit harsh, few of them feel meaningful.

Aside from attacking the offensive glass and scoring on putbacks (usually off his own missed shots), the 21-year-old is currently without a useful role in Los Angeles’ offense. Most of that’s due to a broken jump shot that defenders don’t respect. Randle has zero trust in it right now, and essentially all his mid-range attempts are wide-open and hopeless.

(Randle is shooting 24.5 percent on long twos, which...

About the Author