After signing Jalen Brunson to be the side’s point guard for what may potentially be the next four years, Julius Randle‘s role within the side has, once again, been put into question. After the emergence of RJ Barrett as a legitimate first option and the signing of a borderline all-star to run the point for the Knicks, one question on everyone’s minds is ‘What do the Knicks do concerning Julius Randle?’.
A Tumultuous Tenure
To say that Randle’s tenure in the Empire State has been anything but rocky would be a gross understatement. After initially signing a 3-year $62.1 million contract before the 2019/20 season, many fans were left bitterly disappointed after his first season with the side. Many fans were quick to label him a flop, with some even going so far as to christen him ‘The Tazmanian Devil’, as a result of his chaotic spin moves.
Randle was able to silence these doubters during his 2020/21 campaign. In a season of historic efficiency, where he shot 41.1% from three-point land, he earned an All-NBA Second Team nod, as well as the Most Improved Player award.
However, in the season just gone, Randle was as inconsistent and inefficient as ever, shooting just under 31% from three as well as his PPG figure dropping by 4. All in all, this led to Randle being a negative on the offensive side for the Knicks, finishing the season with -0.3 offensive win shares.
A Weaker Load
What began to occur toward the end of the 2021/22 NBA season was that Randle’s role within the team began to shrink. It became clear that RJ Barrett was now the number one option on the team. Following the All-Star break, Barrett averaged 25 PPG, in comparison to just 18PPG before it. By giving Barrett a larger role, signing Jalen Brunson and having Derrick Rose return from injury the pressure on Randle will be reduced. Furthermore, Randle will be less likely to face double teams, due to the talent the Knicks have added as well as the fact that he will be expected to do less with the ball.
A Change Of Style?
At 6’8 and weighing 250lbs, Julius Randle is blessed with an elite build for basketball. Given this, he can utilise his body and natural athleticism to score more in transition, so long as Thibodeau endorses a faster form of basketball for the coming season. As well as this, Randle can once again be an effective weapon in the pick-and-roll with Brunson. As the roll man, the Knicks averaged 0.99 points per possession. By adding a natural point guard in Brunson and Randle’s chemistry with Evan Fournier further improving, the Knicks can exploit this to their advantage.
What was made evident during the 2021/22 NBA season was that Julius Randle is an athlete who plays the sport with his heart on his sleeve and can often let his emotions get the better of him. This was made evident after his misdemeanours during some of the Knicks’ losses in the past season. In their 115-114 loss against the Phoenix Suns on March 5th, Randle was fined $50,000 and ejected for shoving Cam Johnson. Less than three weeks later on March 20th, he ran off immediately after the final buzzer against the Jazz after a dismal 6-21 shooting performance. The obvious conclusion from this is that Randle can struggle when facing immense scrutiny, whether that be from the media, the fans or opposing defences. With Randle likely taking on a reduced role next season,
By adding a strong playmaker in Jalen Brunson, Randle won’t fall victim to so many double teams from opposing defences as well as being granted more open looks as defenders must pay closer attention to Brunson, a more skilled scorer than Alec Burks. All in all, this should lead to a far more efficient season from Randle on the offensive side, as the team can better play to his strengths.
What one can see from this is that Julius Randle has the ability to be an all-star level talent within today’s NBA, so long as he can stay sharp from a mental perspective. Although it is highly unlikely there will ever be a repeat of his 2020/21 season, as a second or even potentially third option, following the addition of Jalen Brunson, he would arguably be one of the league’s best. That being said, if Randle does not make any sort of improvement from last season, it will be a huge disappointment.