Today I profile the 10th player in this series, forward Anthony Randolph from LSU.
The young freshman wing player from LSU is only 18 years old, not turning 19 until July 15th. Because of his extreme lack of experience, gauging how good of a pro player Randolph may become is going to be a matter of predicting the future, as the young "4" man is far from a finished product.
There is little argument that Randolph has huge potential to be an impact forward in the league. Randolph looks like a potential starting caliber player in time, if he continues his current upward path as a player.
However, that word in the previous sentence, "if", is a gigantic question, because it may be just as likely that Randolph ends up being much more sizzle than steak. Randolph carries with his selection a lot of potential, but a huge amount of risk.
Admittedly, I am pre disposed to like left handed players who are multi faceted in their game. I really liked watching Jalen Rose and Calbert Cheaney play the game, and I feel like Lamar Odom and Manu Ginobili are both very entertaining to watch play today. Randolph has the potential and profile to be similar to the above mentioned Odom if he turns out to be as good as many of the talent evaluators project him to be.
Most of the experts have a higher opinion of Randolph than I do however. I don't mind so much waiting on pure post players to develop their games and talents, as history tells us that pure centers take longer to grow into their bodies and games. However, regardless of where he is projected to be drafted, I see no reason why a lottery team, such as the Knicks for example, would have interest in taking a flyer on a player who even when he develops will be slotted at a position that is the easiest to fill in basketball.
Randolph projects to be a classic "face up 4" in my opinion. I don't see him being a low post factor on either end, as his super thin frame at this point will limit him to playing on the perimeter. I see his potential as an offensive player in time, but I fail to see who Anthony Randolph will ever be able to guard, even giving him a huge benefit of the doubt.
As I said, I see potential for growth as an offensive player, but let it also be said that as of right now today, Randolph will have a difficulty contributing on the offensive end. You cannot be a perimeter playing "4" man like Shawn Marion unless you can consistently make outside shots, and Randolph cannot currently do that. The most troubling thing I see about him and his potential is his shooting form itself, which is awkward, slow, and inaccurate. He seems to lack the decision making prowess (maybe it is lack of experience, maybe it isn't) to know what a good shot is and what one isn't.
The inability to be a good shooter will enable slower defending forwards who potentially would have match up problems against him to be able to lay back from him, negating his single biggest weapon, which is a really good first step. He really covers a bunch of ground with it, and it has to be what the experts are drooling over watching him play. Without the ability to make the open jumper however, Randolph will find his biggest asset to be useless.
Defensively, Randolph, as I said, looks like a sieve. He can't hold his spot against people posting him up, and he can't defend quickness without putting his hands all over people. He is the type of defender who may look more impressive than he actually is, as occasionally he will make a great steal or big block that wows the fans, but when you examine closely he is also the guy who loafs back on defense, gets screened too easily, fails to help his teammate on a drive, and gets pushed underneath the rim while trying to box out. I don't see, even if Randolph fulfills his highest potential, who he consistently can defend at the next level.
There are things about Randolph that trouble me as an analyst. I see the athletic ability no question, and I see the raw potential. But I have real concerns about why his team was so pitiful in college, why his potential doesn't match his production, and whether he seems like the kind of player who will continue to work on his game after recieving the big checks. Being an NBA player takes a huge commitment playing against real professional men who take their craft seriously, and Anthony Randolph is completely not ready, in my judgment, to deal with that currently.
Randolph looks like a player who has always been the biggest and best player his whole life, so he has never had to learn the nuances of the game, or the fundamentals of how to really play. He looks totally and completely reliant on his natural talents, which at the NBA level won't be enough to make it long term.
Randolph would be a great player I think for some team that is totally loaded, and that has a winning culture and lockerroom, to draft and then bring along slowly, and if you did that, perhaps in three years or so you might have a really quality player. But I don't see how Randolph helps anyone this year or probably next, and the fact that he may be drafted as high as 5th or 6th is starting to convince me that this draft and its talent may be a bit overrated. The best thing for Randolph and his long term future would to be drafted by someone like Jerry Sloan, just to teach him how to play and to toughen him up, but instead Randolph looks to me much more likely to be drafted by a team that is a cesspool of losing, selfish play, or incompetence, such as Memphis, New Jersey, or perhaps the Clippers.
While I suspect that it is likely he will be drafted in the top 10, I would not be at all surprised to see Randolph drop as the draft gets closer. The huge risk he carries with him, and the lack of ability to help this season in my opinion makes him a tough sell to a losing organizations fanbase.
We have seen Larry Bird already pick a very similar player in Shawne Williams, so I would be shocked to the core if Bird selected his left handed clone in Randolph. Williams may or may not eventually be a major contributor, the jury is still out on that. But remember, Williams was picked much lower in the pecking order than Randolph will be a few days from now. Remember also that Williams can actually shoot, where as Randolph can't, at least right now, from outside of 10 feet.
As is my custom, I am trying to think of a good comparable player to Randolph that played in the eighties or nineties, but I really can't. Guys as raw and as limited as Randolph is couldn't make it in the league back then.....they stayed in college and honed their games. I guess the best I can think of is a much bigger version of Harold Minor, who looked athletically superior in warmups, but once the games started he looked more like the journeyman that he actually was.
If in the unlikely event Randolph slips to 11, the Pacers should either pass altogether and choose someone else or attempt to find a team to trade down with. Randolph cannot help us and would be a really bad fit for us and our current situation.
As always, the above is just my opinion.