Utah Jazz: Julius Randle's draft stock may be affected by old foot injury
Six months ago, Julius Randle was one of the hottest prospects of the 2014 NBA Draft.
Now, with news developing on Thursday morning, the power forward from Kentucky could see his stock drop, two weeks before one of the biggest nights of his career.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting that an improperly healed broken right foot from his high school days could lead to Randle needing surgery following the June 26 NBA Draft, which would cause the 6-foot-9 left-hander to miss summer league.
"This is an issue," a league executive told ESPN.com. "The foot didn't heal right."
Of course, this affects the Utah Jazz, who like Randle and are considering selecting him with their No. 5 pick. How much it affects Utah's thinking isn't known. But the Jazz have been intrigued with him as a prospect and are expected to bring him in for a workout in the next few weeks in order to take a closer look.
On the court, Randle has a combination of size, athleticism and skill that once had him listed among the draft's elite prospects, such as Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. And while he generally hasn't been spoken of as a top-four candidate, he's always been considered a top-eight kind of prospect.
"He's athletic, he's competitive and he's aggressive," said Jazz VP of Player Personnel Walt Perrin. "He has great leadership ability and he's probably a little bit more advanced than some of the other guys at the same stage."
As a power forward, Randle would probably have the best chance to come in and score right away with the Jazz. In his one season at Kentucky, Randle led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament title game. He averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, and did so despite facing defenses every night geared to stop him with more than one person.
Randle's ability to handle the ball in the open floor has garnered him attention. He's been a relentless offensive rebounder, and showed an ability to pass out of a double-team. One of his greatest attributes has been his ability to find his way to the free-throw line. He gets easy points, and he gets other teams in foul trouble.
"It's a good thing to have," Perrin said. "He puts pressure on a defense and he can score with the clock stopped."
With Quin Snyder as the newly minted head coach, the question with Randle lies in his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter. Big men with reliable jump shots have become a trend in the modern NBA, and the more accurate Randle can be from deep, the more teams will like him and his ability to create offense close to the rim.
"We don't think he has a bad stroke," Perrin said. "It probably just needs to be tweaked here and there. You look at his numbers from the free-throw line. He shot 71 percent. So clearly, he can shoot the ball."
Julius Randle file
• Averaged 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds in one season at Kentucky.
• Stands 6-foot-9, weighs 245 pounds.
• Projected as a top-eight pick in the NBA Draft.