Julius Randle, who is he? Standing at six feet nine inches and weighing around 250 pounds, this Southpaw plays power forward for the world-renowned Los Angeles Lakers.
I love him. I would argue that the best player on the roster right now is between him and Jordan Clarkson. Randle is averaging 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on 18.8 minutes per game. The late first-round pick rookie that is taking his minutes, Kyle Kuzma, has similar numbers. He is averaging 14.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. When it’s all said and done, Kuzma takes only a slight edge in the scoring department.
Now, the issue here is that Kuzma is averaging 30 minutes per game. He’s playing just over 10 more minutes a game and contributing a measly three more points than Randle.
One argument someone might make for Kuzma is that he’s a starter. As a starter, his 30 minutes are justified; starters play the most.
However, 10 minutes is a long time in basketball. Three more points for 10 minutes worth of playing time doesn’t seem justified. Let’s take a look at their per 36 minute numbers. Per 36, Randle’s numbers are as follows: 21.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Kuzma is averaging 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per 36.
Their per-36 stats, if anything, make an even stronger case for Randle. If, after normalizing their stats to per-36 numbers, Kuzma’s stats are even worse than Randle’s, then are we allowed to question what the coaching staff is doing? The staff is paid to look at stats, make adjustments, and help the team win. So why not play Randle?
Well, trade rumors have been circulating around Randle. It’s been said that he most likely has no future with the Lakers. One of our best players on the court has no future with the Lakers. I can understand that Randle might be too costly of a contract to keep, considering the Lakers organization wants to sign free agents this upcoming postseason. However, I cannot endorse intentionally limiting the minutes of one of our best players. As a fan, I want to see the Lakers win. We have trouble scoring, and Randle has the ability to muscle his way to the rim for a basket. I’m not necessarily advocating taking Kuzma’s minutes away and giving them to Randle, but maybe head coach Luke Walton should play them both at the same time.
One of our best lineups in terms of scoring, which I’m now going to call the Lakers death squad, is a Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kuzma, and Randle lineup. This lineup has shared the floor together for a total of 26:42 this season. And, it’s our second-best lineup in terms of scoring (+45.9 net points per 100 possessions). We’re destroying our opponents with this lineup, but it doesn’t see that much play. Furthermore, the only stats that this lineup is negative in are freethrow-related and turnover-related. If one compares the death squad to the three most-played Laker lineups, then one can see that these three lineups really don’t net much in terms of points (-2.0, 0.7, and +2.8). This could be for a slew of reasons, chief of which might be that the most-played lineups are against the starters of other teams. While this may be true, it doesn’t explain why the Lakers don’t use one of our strongest lineups more. Let’s give Randle and Kuzma a chance together more. The death squad lineup is a fast, small-ball squad that can play at a very frenetic pace.
In conclusion, if we’re going to trade Randle, then let’s increase his value. Have him play more minutes, maybe with Kuzma, so that he looks more enticing for other teams. Laker Nation has been tanking for far too long; it’s time to use everything we have to win, even if it means playing someone who we plan on getting rid of. Laker Nation needs more W’s — now.