An All-Star selection is nice, but an All-NBA nod is even better. As the famous lyric goes, which I’ll clean-up for everyone, “There’s levels to this.” Not that you need to be reminded.
Nevertheless, there’s a question that NBA award voters will be facing with regards to New York Knicks forward Julius Randle. He rightfully got his first All-Star nod last month, but is he worthy of receiving that next level of recognition? What level of “good” is he?
Let’s dive into it.
A welcome surprise
The career-long, hot-and-cold Julius Deion Randle has surprised pretty much everyone with his resurgence this season. The energy, efficiency, and effectiveness couldn’t be more different from what he showed in his previous campaign. Most Knicks fans were vocal in believing that the team was better off putting him in the market for picks and/or other pieces.
It might be new head coach Tom Thibodeau, the doubters calling for his head, the frustration from his past disappointments, or all that in rolled into one – whatever it was, Randle simply came out motivated for 2020-21 and has been pouring his guts out for the long-suffering Knicks franchise.
Thibs’ blue-collar mentality has definitely rubbed on the Knicks, and he deserves all the credit he can get for the teams’ unexpected turnaround, but so does Randle, who’s powering the charge.
Making a case
Randle is enjoying a career year. In 56 games this season, he’s averaging career-highs 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and six assists per game, alongside a decent 46.1%/40.9%/79.8% shooting split.
As the Knicks’ clear-cut workhorse all year long, he hasn’t missed a single outing and has led the team in points, rebounds, and assists in a single game 15 times. He’s actually posted a team-high in at least one of those categories in 55 of their 56 games – that’s LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Luka Doncic-level of stat-stuffing right there.
Here’s more: Randle joins Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players to average 20-plus points, 10-plus, rebounds and five-plus assists per game on the season – remember that those two are both serious MVP candidates.
What nicely separates Randle from Jokic and Giannis, though, is he’s ahead of them in defensive win shares because he leads the Knicks’ defense, who’s allowing the fewest points the league for almost the entire season now.
Check out his latest highlight yet. On Saturday, he tallied a season-high 44 points with six three-pointers while on the road against the Dallas Mavericks, outdueling Luka Doncic.
Note that this pushed the Knicks’ winning streak to five – the franchise’s best since 2014.
While the argument is strong, Randle will still face stiff competition. After the two slots in the First Team, which may be a lock for Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetkounmpo, there’s LeBron James, Paul George, Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, Jaylen Brown, and Jimmy Butler.
Randle has a great case over some of those players, but for now, it’s anyone’s guess if he can sway the voters, who tend to give a surprise every year. This tight race should be interesting to watch in the coming weeks.
Randle and the Knicks will take on the New Orleans Pelicans next. They’ll face this Monday, 1:00 AM, Manila time.