Last week, news broke that Julius Randle would likely undergo foot surgery following the NBA draft. Whether or not that’s true — Randle denied the report — the question marks surrounding his health certainly aren’t helping his stock; in fact, Chad Ford’s latest mock draft (Insider) has the Kentucky freshman falling to the Sixers at the 10th spot.
If he does slide, should the Sixers pounce?
Randle is a skilled player with an NBA-ready body (6-foot-9, 234 lb.). As a freshman he averaged 15ppg and 10.4rpg (22.66 PER) while helping the Wildcats reach the NCAA championship. He’s the type of rookie that could contribute immediately.
Offensively, his power and aggressiveness allowed him to excel in the post and paint where he finished strong (70% at the rim, per hoop-math.com), often absorbing contact and drawing fouls in the process.1 His post scoring and rebounding skills also overshadow the fact that he’s deceptively quick and capable in transition.2 Randle was at home in Kentucky’s up-tempo offense running the floor and finishing, as witnessed here:
His best and most translatable NBA skill is his rebounding. He was dominant at Kentucky, grabbing nearly 25 percent of the team’s defensive boards when he was on the floor. On the offensive glass, he outpaced draft rivals Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon in both ORB/game and ORB%.
But like every low-lottery pick, Randle has his flaws. For one, there are concerns about how he will perform defensively at the next level. While he doesn’t project to be a liability, his ceiling there is limited; he’s not a shot blocker (0.8 per game) and he averaged only 0.5 steals per game. Draft models, such as John Hollinger’s, have found that low-steal players fare worse in the NBA.
Randle’s underwhelming wingspan (7-0) was supposed to be mitigated by his range, but his jump shot hasn’t yet materialized. He failed, on multiple occasions, to convert efficiently against the imposing, athletic front lines of rivals LSU and Florida, each of which featured NBA-caliber big men. Though he led Kentucky in 2-point jump shots attempted, he converted at a rate lower than the NCAA average.3
Ford wrote that Randle would be the “perfect complement” to fellow ex-Wildcat Nerlens Noel and would give the Sixers “a big man who can run the floor and command a double-team in the paint.” But the Noel-Randle duo would also leave the Sixers with two bigs that, as of now, lack 3-point range. Though they could both develop as shooters, it’d be nice to have a big with a proven ability to spread the floor. (Especially considering that they already have a starting guard in Michael Carter-Williams that can’t shoot.)
A foot injury that’s serious enough to scare off other lottery teams shouldn’t be ignored. Nor should the red flags regarding his defense, athleticism, and shooting. That said, Randle’s rebounding and post-up game make him a worthy selection at No. 10, a draft spot that has not historically guaranteed greatness.4
1. Randle’s 289 free-throw attempts led Kentucky, more than doubled Noah Vonleh’s (134), and significantly outpaced Aaron Gordon’s (180).
2. At the NBA Draft Combine, Randle’s ¾ court sprint time (3.27 sec) bested Vonleh’s and matched Gordon’s.
3. Hoop-math.com considers 2-point jump shots to consist of all 2-point attempts that did not classify as dunks, layups, or tip-ins. Randle shot only 34.5% on 2-point jump shots, compared to the NCAA team average of 35.7%, per hoop-math.com.
4. Aaron Barzilai’s study on Relative Value of Draft Position lists Lindsey Hunter and Ed Pinckney as examples of median player value expected at the 10th pick.