When you ponder Julius Randle’s rank on a list comparing him to his current peers in the league, how high should he place?
Among the New Orleans Pelicans’ fan base, the popular opinion is that Randle should come off the bench and then wreck havoc on reserve units and anyone else standing before him for the rest of contests. Starter-like minutes? Sure. In with the closing lineup? Sometimes — pending the situation and opponent.
In many minds, this thinking isn’t a slight of Randle. Very good players have at one time or another have agreed to come off the bench to improve the harmony of their team’s rotations. Kevin McHale is known for getting the ideology off on the right foot, Manu Ginobili is often praised for making the trend popular and MVP James Harden started in but seven games during his three seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Some other contemporaries that have followed in their footsteps include Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala and Eric Gordon — yes, I actually typed this name without cursing under my breath!
The argument for Randle to soon join this particular group is simple: With the construction of New Orleans roster, the starting lineup would likely be better suited by having as much floor spacing as possible. Nikola Mirotic, in his own right, is a wonderfully solid all-around contributor, but it is his perimeter shooting that is thought to be most indispensable to a Elfrid Payton-Jrue Holiday-Anthony Davis core. Due to the assembly of this trio, this is also why many remain proponents of E’Twaun Moore continuing to start out of position at small forward — plenty of deadly marksmanship is necessary to keep the oft-used lanes open for business in New Orleans.
Here’s the thing though, Julius Randle has trended quite positively since entering the league and his 2017-18 campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers was a lot better than most give him credit. To highlight his immense versatile contributions, below is a list of all the players over the last 20 years who have exceeded 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per 36 minutes in a season where the player appeared in a minimum of 1,000 minutes.
There’s just 11 different names here, from the last two decades! Nearly all of these guys have been multiple-time All-Stars — most will probably wind up in the Hall of Fame — and one of them happens to be Randle, a player that Head Coach Luke Walton decided to bring off the bench for 33 games last season.
Despite not possessing a three-point shot and shooting a mere 71.8% from the free throw line, Randle wields the second highest true shooting percentage (TS%) on this list. And don’t overlook the fact that he was a mere 23 years of age while posting numbers that put him in an exclusive group among proven greatness.
Yeah, so, when I scanned through ESPN’s Summer Forecast: Simmons, Mitchell likely first-time All-Stars a couple of days ago, their picks as a whole didn’t sit right with me. Oh, I have absolutely no qualms with the panel going the obvious route and selecting Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell or Nikola Jokic, but several other names left me scratching my head.
Clint Capela is a fine, fine center, but is there any significant upside left to unlock in his limited offensive game whereby Mike D’Antoni would feel comfortable using him for 30+ minutes a game in the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors? 80% of his shot attempts came within three feet of the rim! Moreover, while Capela’s defensive and rebounding contributions are important to the Rockets, his on/off numbers seem to suggest he wasn’t as vital as everyone seems to believe?
Eric Gordon is a favorite for many haters living in the Crescent City, but it’s hard to deny he’s made a positive impact for the Rockets since arriving in Houston. That said, Gordon will hit 30 this December, his numbers are not radically different from his production in New Orleans and he has to contend with Harden, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony for a share of the spotlight moving forward.
Given his trajectory, his makeup and the availability of minutes in New Orleans, I feel Julius Randle deserved at least a little consideration for this first-time All-Star list, don’t you? It also makes you wonder who else probably deserved mention...anyways, when the worst comparison to his 2017-18 campaign statistically is Carlos Boozer and then some of the greatest of all time also populate the same microscopic list, that should mean something — especially when there was enough space in Alvin Gentry’s system last season for two MVP candidates and Jrue Holiday, an 18.7 points per game scorer before Cousins ruptured an Achilles.
Guess Randle is going to have to show once more that you can’t keep a good man down, and I have a feeling he’s going to do just that.