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NBA PM: Julius Randle is Irreplaceable for the Lakers

The Lakers cannot replace the potential and promise that Julius Randle brought to their future this season.



Julius Randle is Irreplaceable for the Lakers

The injury bug has taken a bite out of the Los Angeles Lakers once again, this time claiming heralded rookie Julius Randle. Randle suffered a broken leg in his NBA debut last night against the Houston Rockets and, after a successful operation this morning, he has been ruled out for the rest of the season, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. This comes less than a week after finding out that projected starting point guard Steve Nash would miss the season in its entirety as well due to nerve issues in his back.

As much as the loss of Nash hurt the Lakers, there were minimal expectations for the future Hall of Fame point guard because of how much trouble he’s had over the last two years. They brought in Jeremy Lin this offseason largely because of his ability to handle starter’s minutes in the case that Nash wouldn’t be able to play a significant role. Veteran lead guard Ronnie Price was also a late addition brought in primarily as insurance in case Nash got hurt. Based off of what the Lakers have gotten from Nash the last two years, replacing him wasn’t difficult. In fact, it’s something Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak planned to do in the final year of his contract when he first signed it.

With Randle, on the other hand, there is no replacing him. Outside of the health of Kobe Bryant, nothing was more important for the overall state of the Lakers franchise than his development. The seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft came in as one of the most pro-ready prospects and really started to hold his own as the preseason progressed. He was being eased into a featured role, coming off of the bench behind Carlos Boozer, but was going to be a big part of what the Lakers were trying to do this season.

Due to this broken leg, Randle’s development basically gets set back a year. Rather than being able to come in next year as a confident sophomore with a year of experience under his belt and ready to take on more responsibility, he’s going to be just as raw and inexperienced while playing on a surgically repaired knee. Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who Randle has drawn some comparisons to, set a precedence for missing his rookie season due to an injury and coming back better than ever the following season. The hope for the Lakers is that Randle will be able to do the same, but in the short-term there’s no one else that provides the kind of potential, hope and excitement for the future like he does.

As the saying goes, the show must go on. The Lakers will rely heavily on Boozer, Ed Davis and Ryan Kelly this season at the power forward position with Randle out. They may be able to replace what he was going to contribute from a production standpoint, but this is a major blow to the Lakers, one that they could be reeling from even into next year as a result.

Silver Addresses Lottery Reform

Last week, a proposed change to the lottery system was shot down by 13 of the league’s 30 teams, enough to prevent a switch from the current system. Twenty-three teams needed to vote in favor of it to pass, but just because it did not happen this year does not mean that we won’t see it in the future. NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the topic in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck.

“It’s definitely not dead,” Silver said. “A majority of the teams, 17 teams, voted in favor of the specific proposal recommended to the board. It requires a two-third vote to change our playing rules and so since the majority of teams want something different it’s definitely not dead. I don’t think there’s quite a sense of urgency, as you know we’ve tinkered with the draft lottery format multiple times over the years. I’m not dissatisfied with where we’ve come out in terms of the odds for the worst performing team against the other teams that don’t make the playoffs, but I am concerned about the perception. Not just the perception that teams may not be doing everything in their power to win games, but what I see is the increased pressure on GMs and owners to underperform. That’s what’s new. The very purpose of the lottery put in place was to disincentive teams from having an incentive to have the worst record. What’s happened now, and I think it’s the advent of analytics and new generations of GMs and a lot more sophistication among the fans as well, fans have adopted it, a perception that it’s a winning strategy. I don’t agree with that and I think the jury is out on the analytics and I think part of it is the cultural elements of not being a winning organization. I think Mark Cuban said the other day, it may be an effective strategy when it’s one team, but when you have multiple teams racing to the bottom, I think it takes away from the effectiveness for potentially all those teams. I think it needs to be addressed. I thought it was a very productive discussion in front of the board on the potential unintended consequences and that’s always the concern when you thinker with a program like the draft lottery because teams are sophisticated in a good way and are always looking for an edge. The sense of the room was clearly the majority of the teams were voting for that specific proposal, there was a second resolution that was passed that we agreed as a board that we need to turn back to this and we will.

“I don’t want to say [change is] inevitable because the board is definitely not a rubber stamp, whatever process we use as a competition committee I want to encourage a very full conversation once we do get to the full board of the owners. I think it’s likely but we’ll see if this even goes on. I think also as there’s more public attention focused on the issue it may affect the behavior of our teams as well.”

While the proposal, which featured the worst six teams having closer odds at earning the top pick, is off the table for now, don’t be surprised if another proposal is brought to the table next year. Silver said that a lot of great ideas have been coming in as a result of this proposal and with only six more teams needed to be persuaded that this current system is flawed and needs to be removed, there’s still a great chance that change could happen, even though it won’t be this year.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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