BY CHRIS HAAS
Player: Julius Randle 6’9 Power Forward
Drafted: First Round, 7th Pick by Los Angeles Lakers
Julius Randle didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called on Thursday’s NBA Draft but In Julius’ mind the wait was long enough.His message for the 6 teams that passed on him- “They’ll regret it.” The Lakers were pleasantly surprised to find Randle available at the 7 spot. The Lakers coveted Randle’s toughness and competitive spirit, two traits that his new teammate Kobe Bryant is said to possess as well. Randle was labeled as one of the most NBA ready players in the draft, thanks to his large frame and advanced feel for the game. Randle’s ability to contribute right away is a boon for the Lakers, who are never afforded the luxury of a down year. Sound familiar? Randle’s experience on the biggest stage in college basketball at the University of Kentucky will
surely help him thrive on the biggest stage in the NBA.
What to expect in 2014-2015: Randle will likely start at power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. If he continues to bully opponents at the next level, expect loads of rebounds per game and a real chance at Rookie of the Year honors. Only the Bucks’ number 2 selection, Jabari Parker, is in a better position to contribute out of the gate.
Player: James Young, 6’6 Shooting Guard
Drafted: First Round, 17th by Boston Celtics
Kentucky fans caught glimpses of Young’s upside in his freshman year. At times the lanky lefty looked so silky smooth from long range, you’d think he would never miss again. On the other end of the court, however, there were times when Young couldn’t stop an opponent if his life depended on it. The Celtics are aware of both of these qualities. Young can shoot and he can’t play defense (yet). The Celtics are gambling that Young can develop into an elite shooter and an average defender. With youth on Young’s side, it appears they made the right move in rolling the dice.
What to expect in 2015: Young was drafted as a project, so he will likely see limited time next year. The Celtics are not in a realistic position to
compete for a title as their roster currently stands, so they will take their time getting Young into the regular rotation.
Player: Russ Smith 6’1 Guard
Drafted: Second Round, 47th by New Orleans Pelicans.
Like the 2012 Final Four game between Louisville and Kentucky, Russ Smith and Anthony Davis will be playing on the same floor in New Orleans. I think if these two beloved local stars played for a Louisville franchise, it would end the debate on whether Kentucky could support an NBA team. But that’s a different story and unfortunately, the New Orleans Pelicans are not the Kentucky Colonels.
Russ Smith overcame a great deal of adversity on his path to the NBA. He was not one of Rick Pitino’s star recruits. In fact, most publications didn’t evenbother rating him. He did not come in and dominate as a freshman like some of the behemoths at Kentucky do. His freshman year was so disappointing he strongly considered transferring to Manhattan. The small guard never believed his detractors and the rest is history. A couple of All American teams, all conference teams, two conference championships, two final fours, and a National Championship later, Russdiculous is laughing his way to the next level.
What to expect in 2015:
Russ Smith will be given a chance to contribute off the bench in his rookie season. He will need to play under control and prove he’s capable of penetrating against larger competition. Smith’s natural defensive prowess will help offset his lack of size on defense. But let’s not kid ourselves, ultimately the Pelicans will be making checks out to Russ for one reason: buckets. If it all goes to plan we will be seeing Russdiculous highlights on Sportscenter for years to come.