There was a grave danger that Julius Randle would become an unfortunate footnote in NBA history following his ill-fated debut.
He might have become a mere quiz question many years down the road. Perhaps he would have become the anti-Kobe; a man who's time with the Lakers lasted only 14 minutes compared to the Black Mamba's two decades.
Randle was the number seven overall pick back 2014 fresh out of Kentucky where he had averaged a double-double in his freshman year. In fact, his 24 double-doubles broke the record for the most by a UK freshman since Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins shared history with 20 each.
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And yet, 14 minutes into his NBA debut, the Dallas, Texas native broke his right tibia against the Houston Rockets. Randle sat out the entire 2014-15 campaign and returned to a Lakers side that was even worse than the one he had left.
The 6'9" power forward returned last term and made sure he proved his doubters wrong. Yes, the Purple and Gold sank to a franchise-worst record of 15-67 to prop up the Western Conference, but Randle produced an average of 11.3 points and 10.2 rebounds a night, while only missing one game.
He's a bright spot in a murky new beginning for the Lakers, but he's not the post-Kobe savior the front office desired.
Respective 2015 and 2016 number two draft picks - D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram - are the shining, hand-picked lights.
But, if you let that notion breath for a minute, it resembles a scenario that has worked out pretty well for Golden State.
Draymond Green - also a 6'9", undersized power forward - is a player that Randle has drawn a lot of comparisons with, and it hasn't escaped him. While he represents the same double-double threat that Green does, the Warriors star is a far greater defender than the 21-year-old at present.
Randle became the youngest Laker to record a triple-double since Magic Johnson last season when he stuffed the stat sheet against the Denver Nuggets, and Green is the franchise record holder for triple-doubles with the Warriors.
Is Randle showing early signs of traveling a similar road to the Warriors' enigmatic No. 23?
"Obviously, there are a lot of similarities between Draymond and myself," Randle said back in May. "There will be a lot to learn, but especially with the style of play, it'll be fun for us to get up and down. Sharing the ball is going to be big for us this year. Just building that chemistry on both sides of the floor."
New Lakers head coach Luke Walton will play a pivotal role in Randle's development, just like Green credits the fomer Dubs assistant coach with aiding his.
The runner-up in the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year voting isn't threatened by the Lakers starlet's progression; quite the contrary. Green is more than happy to lend a helping hand Randle's way and back in January of this year, the one-time All-Star revealed he had already been dishing out some advice.
"I talked to him (Julius Randle) about it (being an undersized power forward) last time I saw him, to just try to pick up a few things here and there that will make the game much easier for him," Green said in an interview with LakersNation.com.
"There's a few things that I've learned over the course of the last couple of years that make the game a lot easier for you and once the game starts to come easier for you, everything it just starts to flow."
"I think once he gets in that rhythm, a real rhythm, I think he's really going to be a force to be reckoned with," Green said of Randle.
Green was a second-round draft pick back in 2012 and that fact has acted as a chip on his shoulder ever since. Both men have risen from underdog circumstances - albeit very different ones - to become prominent players for their franchises today.
Green was never meant to be the star attraction in Oakland, but no matter how many threes the Splash Bros of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson rain down, and now matter what big name like Kevin Durant comes to town, everybody knows that Green is the larger than life glue that holds the Dubs together.
Can Randle be that leader for the Lakers? He has that on-court presence, and the development of Ingram and Russell may well hinge on how the man at the four spot can assert himself at both ends of the floor.
There was only three years between the drafting of all Curry, Thompson and Green with the Warriors and it's taken only two years for the Lakers to amass the trio of Russell, Randle and Ingram.
Can they yield the same results in the next three to four years as their Pacific Division rivals?