New York Knicks forward Julius Randle has had an up-and-down couple of seasons. He was considered an overpaid acquisition in 2019, which played out as such as he underwhelmed and the team remained in the gutter. He then led a Knicks resurgence in the 2020-21 season, wherein they paraded a top-ranked defense and clinched a top 4 spot in the playoffs, rightfully earning himself his first All-Star nod. Unfortunately, while things appeared bright and shiny, he and the team frustratingly regressed in ’21-22, so the heavy criticism was back on again.
That brings us to today. The trajectory is up… again. By now, everyone knows to be a little weary of getting too hyped with Randle and the Knicks, but at the end of the day, good basketball is good basketball, and it’s great to see. It’s always fun when a big-market team like the Knicks have a solid squad, especially if you include all of the craziness that their rabid fans generate.
Far from his lethargic and predictable performance in ’21-22, where he’s visibly rattled whenever he’s not in his sweet spots and often settling on ill-advised jumpers, Randle is now filled with confidence and patience. He’s more relaxed, matured, and understanding of he and his teammates’ respective roles. It’s pretty evident with the numbers he’s putting up – his 25.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.8 threes per game are all career-bests, and he’s still mixing it with timely facilitating as he’s still dishing out 4.1 assists on the season. To top it off, his turnovers are down to just 2.8 per game, his lowest since becoming a Knicks.
On Saturday, he had one of those days against the Washington Wizards. Seemingly on scoring mode (and that alone), the 28-year-old had a season-low two rebounds but unloaded seven threes on 16-for-29 shooting, eventually finishing off with a career-high 46 points. It guided the Knicks to a 115-108 victory, their fourth in a row.
This is a subtle statement game that he deserved his second All-Star selection this season.
A big key to the re-emergence is believed to be the arrival of prized off-season reinforcement Jalen Brunson. The former Dallas Maverick is a true point guard, someone that the Knicks have long sought for, and he has been huge, as he has provided stellar play and lightened Randle’s workload – case and point on the power forward lowering his turnover numbers.
Further, the two have quietly formed a good duo for the Knickerbockers, and it’s arguably better than anything the franchise has had in the 21st century. It’s a good mix too – one controls the flow of the offense, the other gives presence in the interior, and both can provide damage inside and out.
Thanks in good part to Randle, the Knicks are currently sitting at 34-27, good for sixth place in the ever-competitive Eastern Conference. They have a good chance to move up further considering how the current fifth-seed Brooklyn Nets are sporting a new and younger group, and could probably experience growing pains.
Hopefully, though, Randle and Brunson can co-lead an improvement and more clutch play at home. It’s nice that they are these rugged and resilient bunch of blue-collar style of warriors on the road because that’s what a playoff contender has to be, as evident in their 19-12 away slate, but they are cancelling that out with an abysmal 16-15 record in their home floor, which is a rare case.
We’ll see how this Knicks squad has truly grown in the next few months. It should be an exciting wait for all hoop fans.