How Much Hype Can One Man Randle?

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Published: July 10, 2018

By Rick Stone

As one door closes, another one opens.

The New Orleans Pelicans might have lost DeMarcus Cousins in Free Agency, but the overall fan base has not waivered. Excitement comes in the form of Anthony Davis’ freshly recruited big Julius Randle, that has joined the Pelicans on a two-year, $18 million deal. The former Laker surprised many by signing down the Bayou, after his rights were renounced by LA in order to sign former Pelican Rajon Rondo. Because of this, the loss of two core New Orleans pieces just a year ago does not seem like the end of the world. The hype is real. Really real.

But what exactly should the hype be for Randle? How much hype is too much hype?

Julius will not completely replace Cousins. That is a given. Boogie put up over 25 points, close to 13 rebounds and shot 47 percent last year in his 48 games. Julius is not going to put those kind of numbers up. He is not going to be a dominant a threat inside the paint. Instead, the Pelicans are hoping Randle is going to be an addition to what New Orleans showed off in the playoffs.

While the Pelicans’ half-court offense is not the most expansive in the league, it does an incredible job at making the most of the pick-and-roll offense, something that Julius Randle did incredibly well last season. Alongside Lakers’ mid-season acquisition Isaiah Thomas, Randle took over in the pick-and-roll game as they shared the court together. Julius shot 62.7 percent in the pick-and-roll last season, with a scoring percentage of 58.2 percent. That’s higher than Anthony Davis’ 55.6 percent from last year. And that’s saying something considering Davis’ massive success in the P&R, especially against Portland in the playoffs.

Randle’s strong relationship with Thomas could be something that comes into play with Jrue Holiday in New Orleans and be death for Pelicans’ opponents. Jrue’s fire season came down to his ability to run a lethal pick-and-roll game with AD and Mirotic. New Orleans now adds along a third big man, who is capable of being an aggressive roll man towards the basket. It’s the “flexibility” the team hopes to have not just for the starter minutes, but the entire game.

The other main area New Orleans will see the immediate benefit is the offensive glass. Randle averaged 2.2 offensive rebounds per game in just under 27 minutes a game. That’s the same amount DeMarcus Cousins had for the Pelicans this past season. The faster tempo of the New Orleans could be tricky for those numbers to repeat exactly, but he’s still going to be a menace on the offensive glass. For a team like the Pelicans, who ranked 26th in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game last year, it will make a significant difference.

So what should the proper expectations be for Randle? Should Pelicans fans expect the same 2.2 offensive rebounds per game and stellar pick-and-roll offense? Or is the proper expectation more, since he’s moving from a lottery team to one of the semi-finalists in the Western Conference Playoffs? Without the entire Pelicans puzzle in place and no actual footage of Randle with this cast of players, it’s tough to get complete handle on Randle in New Orleans.

The numbers do reveal some consistency on his part. Not including his first season in the NBA, where he played just one game due to injury, Randle has put up at over 11 points, eight rebounds and over 70 percent shooting from the free-throw line. His shooting percentage did not take off until last season, but with the open looks he’ll generate from Davis and Holiday, it should not be too much a surprise if he keeps close to his 55.8 percent shooting from last year. The expectation should be a solid producer, whose going to fit pretty darn well with the Pels’ style. Randle played in the Lakers system, which was ranked third in fastest pace last season. New Orleans ended up leading that stat category, only a tenth of a point higher than Los Angeles.

The Pels’ entire 2017-2018 season became about their flexibility, especially when Cousins went down. Randle should not have a hard time fitting into that as well. After playing power forward for the first two seasons in LA, Julius switched to the center role for the majority of his minutes. This might be due to the Lakers feeling his lack of outside shooting suited him better as a center in the new age NBA.

Not only did Randle adjust, but he had his best numbers of his career in this past campaign. It’s a main reason the hype in New Orleans is so high. The idea of a bruiser big, one that can score the ball inside being paired alongside Anthony Davis, is something that seems oddly familiar in the original Boogie trade. Again, Randle is not Boogie, but this is a different Pelicans team than the one that pursued that trade. Julius creates a triangle of bigs New Orleans can use to handle whatever situation their opponents may bring.

While Randle might not be the “Fire” to AD’s “Ice”, he’s going to bring a different kind of element, that could end up balancing out the Pelicans. This is no longer a team of just two major elements, but a team that has an interchangeable and adaptable list of elements on their roster, each there to elevate Davis in some fashion.

Julius Randle is the next stage in this era of New Orleans Pelicans basketball. He’s a hard-working muscle big, who crashes the glass and bullies his way inside. His defense has drastically improved since his entry into the league and that will be key, alongside one of the menaces of blocks in the NBA. Consistency is the word with Julius. He’s not going to have crazy fluctuations in his score lines, either good or bad. Fans should expect Randle to bring the pain inside and be a frontcourt sidekick during Anthony Davis’ reign on the league.

It will be a while into the season before we see everything he can show. Learning a new dynamic on a new team takes time. That comes with any player. Having a training camp and preseason under his belt will give a bit of insight into what kind of chemistry we will see for New Orleans and Randle. But the hype is already high. After the deep playoff run and the addition of Elfrid Payton, it’s an exciting time for Louisiana basketball. Randle is a tough working big, coming off his best season of his career and motivated to make his first playoff appearance of his career alongside a fellow Kentucky star. To put it simply: The hype is pretty well deserved.

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