Larry Nance’s Upside, Julius Randle’s Downside

Larry Nance Jr. has missed the last four games because of knee soreness. Nance tore an ACL while at Wyoming so it makes sense the Lakers and the training staff are being extra cautious. Nance has been one of the bright lights of the Lakers dismal season, a late first round pick that most scouts expected to be a project. He was athletic, a good mid-range shooter, but didn’t have much in the way of post moves. Nance was slotted to be a second rounder and when the Lakers picked him up before then, eyebrows were raised.

Once Carlos Boozer was put out to pasture, many expected Julius Randle to be the Lakers starting power forward. Four months in, no one quibbles about Nance winning the job over Randle. It seems pretty clear that it is Nance’s job to lose. Nance is farther along in his NBA game. You don’t have to call plays for him. He can finish in traffic and with size because of his explosiveness. He’s a good rebounder who plays hard on every play. He has good shooting numbers for a rookie. He is a good ball mover and cutter; he sees the floor. And he’s unselfish.

Future Power Forward? Points FG% Rebounds Rebound % PER
Larry Nance, Jr. 6.0 54.1% 5.0 13.0% 14.0
Julius Randle 10.5 40.3% 9.6 19.2% 13.1

Nothing has gone the way Julius Randle thought it would in his NBA career. The broken leg, followed by the year recovery, and now coming off the bench is pretty much the opposite of the Juilus Randle dream scenario.

Randle is a strong rebounder who has a nose for the ball. He is good in the open court, in space. He plays extremely hard. But in half-court sets he struggles, partly because he is a rookie, and partly because he has certain deficits NBA coaches have studied on film and are exploiting. He is a terrible jump shooter. Doesn’t matter the shot. Pull ups, catch and shoot, mid- range shots. He’s not an explosive jump out of the gym talent like Nance and he often gets his shot blocked or simply can’t finish at the rim. He uses his left hand exclusively which teams scheme for. He dribbles without a plan that result in turnovers.

Shooting Catch and Shoot % Pull Up % At The Rim 3-10 feet% 10-16 feet %
Larry Nance, Jr. 39.1% 40.0% 71.1% 43.8% 31.3%
Julius Randle 34.0% 19.4% 52.6% 36.8% 14.3%

Randle needs a lot of time in the gym this summer working on his jumper and his right hand. At Kentucky, he got a lot of baskets to go in by bullying his way to the rim. That won’t cut it in the NBA. Undersized, he has to become more versatile.

He has a big fan in Draymond Green.

“You can tell he’s a guy who works, so I know the sky’s the limit for him. I think a lot of people, in this day and age, don’t have the love, that will, and that drive that continues to push them, and you can just see that in him (Randle) and his game and the way he plays. I think with the tools that he has, the heart that he has, the emotion that he has about the game, I think he can be a very, special, special player.”

Green’s game is something Randle can look to as a model, as he works on his weaknesses this summer. Green averages 7.3 assists. He guards the perimeter and the post. He sets brilliant screens in the Warriors screen and roll with Steph Curry. Plus he rebounds and blocks shots. If the Lakers copied the Warriors playbook and let Randle handle a lot of the point-forward duties and allowed D’Angelo Russell to just score ala Curry, Randle could have similar numbers as Green’s 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists.

Until that happens (if it ever does with Byron Scott as the Lakers coach), it will be Larry Nance in the post for the Lakers for the foreseeable future. Nance needs to improve his shooting and develop some moves in the paint when fronted by big men.

Nance and Randle are an impressive rebounding combo and no one has to worry about their work ethic. Or, who should start and who should come off the bench.

photo via llananba