Every night when I tune in to watch the Los Angeles Lakers play I don’t come in eyeing one guy in particular. This team is so balanced and exciting from top to bottom of their roster that you know ONE of those guys is going to put on some sort of show that night. When you really think about it, that’s a hell of a problem to have. You have five guys who can really be your center point on any given night, most coaches would sign over the rights to their first born child for a deal like that. But when you have a basketball mind like I do you ask yourself questions about your team. One of those questions is who takes the final shot in a close game? Which lead me perfectly to the question I really want to know, who is the Lakers best player?
There is no formula for that, you can’t go up to Albert Einstein and say, “Hey man, I have one ball and five guys who can score that ball. Put some numbers together and figure out which one of those guys is the best option to score in a pressure situation.” That’s impossible to do, game winning shots and being “The Man” can’t be taught, you either have it or you don’t. No coach in the history of ever has gone to his assistant coaches and players and asks, “So, uhhh, who do y’all think is the best player we have out here right now?” Never has, nor will it ever happen. Everybody knows who the best player is by simply watching the team play.
To be clear, there is a lot of factors that play into who is a teams best player, but the one I fall back to the most after the stats get broken down is, “Who has the ball in their hand with 10 seconds to go in a tied ball game?” Isn’t that a pretty clear indicator of who that team trust the most? There’s three reasons why that guy has that ball then, and these three reasons kinda prove my point.
1) The player with the ball can probably score in a different variety of ways, which explains why he is trusted with such responsibility.
2) The player with the ball can probably make a play for someone other than himself, so if a double team occurs he can still make the pass to the open man.
3) The player with the ball can probably do a combination of both.
Now, I know a lot of you amateurs are thinking I just described D’Angelo Russell, if you did I don’t blame you, but in reality I described Julius Randle. This man can get his shot in one-on-one situations, he can make the pass, he can rebound. He’s like one of those Swiss army knifes, he can do it all. He joined Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green and Lebron James as the only players this season to record multiple triple doubles. When you make a list with names on it like that you are doing something incredibly great. The fact that you haven’t scratched the surface of your potential and this is only a glimpse of what’s on deck is even greater. Whichever way you slice it, no player on the Lakers squad at this point and time affects the game on both ends like Randle does.
If the Lakers had a one-on-one tournament I’m pretty sure the game notes would look like this.
“Julius Randle moved a player four feet across the court with one hand while driving to the paint.. Randle can score from any spot on the floor.. Randle can guard 1-5 if needed too, lateral movement is second to none… 5 Star player.”
Whether one-on-one or real NBA action the Lakers don’t have a better player right now. Randle is someone who can score and play defense at multiple positions, the few who can do both are rare. The fact that he’s being so effective in his “third” NBA season is what’s more impressive. Randle went from a player who was considered a bust just two seasons ago, to the player who the Lakers rely on to bring the fire. His development to dominance was quicker than expected, the real question is how much longer will it take until he’s considered one of the games best big men. From the looks of it, he’s right around the corner. The title of Lakers best player is Randle’s as long as he wants to, only he decides when to pass the crown.