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The safest pick of the 2014 NBA draft

Julius-randleINDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Watching Julius Randle do whatever he wants on a basketball floor it is hard to believe that coming out of high school one of the knocks on his game was that he was not assertive enough.

Given the fact he was the best player on whatever floor he ever walked on, it is not hard to fathom there were stretches of time during games when Randle simply did not want to be assertive in an effort to involve his teammates.

Most good players hate the “selfish” tag, especially in high school, and don’t want to alienate their best friends. So they let them shoot.

As a true freshman at Kentucky, Assertion is not his problem - he is a double-double machine. He averaged better than 15 and 10 this season.

On Sunday, after UK defeated Michigan in the Elite 8, Randle was named the Midwest Region’s Most Outstanding Player.

Randle will play in the Final Four not too far from where he grew up, and attended high school

"I'm coming home to my mom.  We get to play in the Final Four in my hometown.  And the biggest thing is it's not about that,” Randle said Sunday in the post-game press conference. “I'm just happy and proud of all my teammates.  And it will be a great experience for us.”

La-sp-0328-ncaa-capsules-20140328-001Right now, according to the very scientific, Randle is projected to be selected eighth overall in the June draft. That is behind Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Kyle Anderson, Noah Vonleh and Dante Exum.

Something called DraftExpress has Randle going fourth.

While the rest of the top picks look to have a potentially greater upside, Randle looks to be the safest selection.

At 6-foot-9, he can already take defenders to the basket with a hard dribble drive and spin back to the middle; what is lacking, naturally, is a consistent 15 to 17-foot shot. He needs some sembalnce of a mid-range, or perimeter, game. That will come with practice. He has the makings of a nastier Chris Bosh, and more refined David West.

If Randle goes to the right team, he could easily be the NBA’s Rookie of the Year next season.

His ceiling may not be as high as Embiid, Wiggins or Parker, but it’s hard not to envision Randle as a 10 to 13-year pro who eventually averages double-double and is an All-Star.

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The Zach Randolph comparisons are lazy IMHO. Just because he's 6'9" dark-skinned and left handed doesn't make him Zach Randolph. Julius' upside is so much greater as he is a much better ballhandler and significantly more athletic. Doesn't mean he will reach this potential, but after watching him for the past 4 years, I wouldn't bet against it.

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