Julius Randle Q&A with Mike Trudell
To learn more about New Orleans free-agent signee Julius Randle, we caught up with Lakers TV sideline reporter Mike Trudell, a member of the broadcast team for Spectrum’s coverage of the marquee Los Angeles franchise. Trudell – who also operates the immensely popular Twitter account @LakersReporter – covered Randle throughout the forward’s entire four-year tenure in Southern California:
Pelicans.com: Randle seems to have progressed in each of his three full NBA seasons, but he appeared to make a tremendous leap in performance and production in 2017-18. What were some of the biggest reasons behind the jump he just made?
Trudell: There’s no question Randle made a big leap in 2017-18, and the quickest answer as to why is because he improved his body tremendously in the offseason. The results were quickly apparent, as his production was really strong both off the bench to start the season, and when he became a full-time starter, when he averaged 18.6 points and 9.1 boards with 3.1 assists per game, while effectively switching onto guards on the defensive end. He also took better shots as he figured out where he could best break down a defense, and his shooting percentage went up nearly eight percentage points from the previous season.
Pelicans.com: Based on his Lakers career and his strengths on the court, how might he best fit position-wise and in tandem with New Orleans’ frontcourt, which is headlined by Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic?
Trudell: It’s a great fit because Randle can either play as a small ball five, or a huge four that doesn’t hurt you defensively because he can guard both post positions as well as switch onto guards. He’s not the kind of big that another team will look to isolate, which is a big advantage from a strategic standpoint. With Davis, Randle will really benefit from having a rim protector alongside him, as that’s one area where he hasn’t had a big impact at this stage of his career. And playing alongside Mirotic will be excellent on offense, because Randle loves to drive to the rim and doesn’t take many perimeter shots, so that complements Mirotic quite well. Davis, of course, can shoot it with range as well, so it’s nice to have a driver alongside him.
Pelicans.com: Statistically, he’s become a more efficient offensive player each year as a pro. Based on his shooting chart, he’s also taken a bigger and bigger chunk of his shot attempts close to the rim. What accounts for that? Did he just improve at getting to the basket, or has he simply made the decision to launch jumpers less frequently?
Trudell: A bit of both. But the bottom line is he sharpened his finishing skills, the angles that he took to get to the basket, and got stronger. There wasn’t really a defensive player all season that could keep him from getting to his spot due to a rare combination of quickness and strength, and the Pelicans will benefit from that considerably.
Pelicans.com: Based on expectations going into his NBA career as a Lakers lottery pick, did his development come along more slowly than projections? (Obviously a leg injury in his NBA debut game was very unfortunate luck). Was it just a matter of him gaining experience or did he become a more mature player, physically and/or in other areas?
Trudell: I wouldn’t say his development was slow. He’s still only 23 years old, and can still get considerably better. His production last season as a 22- and 23-year-old was quite impressive, in my opinion.
Pelicans.com: Are there any aspects of his game that still have upside, or areas he wasn’t fully capable of showing, perhaps based on the role he filled with the Lakers?
Trudell: The obvious thing he doesn’t do on offense is shoot a lot from the perimeter, especially from three, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you’re so effective at scoring in the paint and putting pressure on the defense, why would you want to settle for jump shots? Sure, if you have other non-shooters on the floor, it could impact spacing, but I personally thought Randle was making great decisions playing downhill towards the rim. Of course, he can and will improve the shot as well, I just wouldn’t want to change how efficient he was doing what he’s best at. On the other end, it would be weakside defense. Whether coming over to help protect the rim or tag cutters, that’s an area where he can grow.
Pelicans.com: The Lakers are coming off a stretch of five straight non-playoff seasons. How did Randle handle the circumstances of often playing games in March and April that were not relevant to the playoff race?
Trudell: I thought Randle always brought energy, regardless of the stakes of the game.
Pelicans.com: What’s one thing we might be surprised to know about Randle?
Trudell: Not that it’s a surprise, but Randle is an extremely attentive husband and father, and loves being with his family. His priorities appear pretty simple, to be the best husband/dad/son that he can, and to play his best basketball.
Pelicans.com: We simply can’t let you go without asking a LeBron James question. What’s been the wildest or most interesting thing you’ve seen in terms of fan or media reaction since it was reported July 1 that James was coming to Los Angeles?
Trudell: I’m not sure there’s anything wild or interesting that I’ve seen, to be honest. The bottom line is that when you can get LeBron James without giving up a single asset, it’s about as good of a thing that can happen to your team. The Lakers are certainly excited to reap those benefits, even in a very difficult Western Conference.