Julius Randle, 6-foot-9 power forward, Kentucky
2013-14 stats: 15.0 PPG , 10.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 70.6 FT%
A tenacious interior player, Randle started out the college season in the conversation as one of the top draft prospects, but as the campaign went on, his stock gradually dropped, even as his team made a run to the national-championship game. The Dallas-area native plays with great strength in the paint and though his game has limitations, his passion is hard to deny. The bigger question for Randle on the next level is how much he can improve, as it’s already clear what he brings to the table.
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Career highlights: The McDonald’s All-American made an immediate splash, getting a double-double in his first seven games, en route to averaging 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, while shooting an even 50 percent from the field and after a midseason slump, leading the once-underachieving Wildcats on a run in the NCAA Tournament. Some of Randle’s top performances included a 27-point, 13-rebound game against Michigan State, a 25-point, 13-rebound game against Mississippi, a 17-point, 16-rebound game against LSU and a 19-point, 15-rebound game against Kansas State. His list of accolades include being named SEC freshman of the year, first team all-conference, NCAA all-tournament team and third team All-American, while notching 24 double-doubles and reaching double figures in all but four games.
Strengths: The southpaw’s rebounding ability, motor and power game are the most obvious things about his skill set, as Randle’s determined mentality and strong physique allow him to thrive as an inside force. While not a freak athlete, he’s an explosive finisher and plays through contact, as well as running the floor hard in transition for easy baskets. Although he’s more raw than a finesse player, Randle’s quickness and footwork on the interior, including spin moves and releases from different angles suggest that he can develop into a fairly refined post-up player in time.
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Weaknesses: Almost entirely reliant on his left hand, Randle’s post-up game needs more diversity and as a shooter, he could stand to improve his range and get better from the foul line, a place he makes frequent trips. Possessing only average size and length for his position, scoring over bigger players inside could be an issue for him and he will need to get better at both passing and recognizing when help defense is coming. Defensively, Randle must make more of a consistent effort and become more aware in an overall team scheme.
Draft projection: Seen as in a mix with fellow power forwards Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon, Randle could be selected anywhere between fifth to Utah and eighth to Sacramento. Despite needing to further polish his game, Randle appears equipped to be a double-double performer in the NBA upon arrival, but whether or not he’s capable of being more of a primary offensive option is another matter. Still, with his intensity, if he works to add more to his repertoire, Randle can be a highly effective power forward in the league for a long time.