How Tom Thibodeau can help unlock New York Knicks forward Julius Randle.
After striking out in the summer of the 2019, the New York Knicks‘ prized free agent acquisition was none other than Julius Randle. The veteran forward signed a 3-year, $63 million deal with the hope that he could build off of his successes during the 2018-19 season. New York hoped that a larger role would aid Randle’s progression as a playmaker. Entering his age-25 season, Randle’s trajectory seemed a good fit with an upstart Knick roster.
Unfortunately, Randle quickly realized the difficulties of being the number one offensive weapon on the Knicks. While with the Pelicans, he was afforded the luxury of playing alongside Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and, for a short while, Nikola Mirotic. Randle was, at best, the third option on offense and received ample floor spacing to score a career-high 21.4 points/game on 52.4% shooting from the field, to go along with 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. With the Knicks, Randle had to assume the bulk of the scoring duties and didn’t have the luxury of many offensive weapons.
Randle averaged 19.5 points/game on 46% shooting from the field this season, a decline in both categories from the previous year. His three-point shooting percentage dropped to 27.7% as Randle faced pressure to space the floor in order to open up scoring lanes in the paint. Unfortunately, the Knicks’ roster lacked perimeter prowess, which made things very difficult for Randle both in terms of scoring and playmaking.
Randle’s productivity stifled until the Knicks fired Fizdale early in December. After Mike Miller assumed duties, he helped simplify Randle’s game by shifting ball-handling duties away from him. This put him into better positions on offense and improved his efficiency across the board. Miller shifted from more isolation ball to pick-and-rolls so Randle could receive better spacing and scoring opportunities.
In the month of December, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged 21.4 points/game on 46.7% from the field and a True Shooting % (TS%) of 56.2%, his best month of the season. After a slight decline in January, coinciding with a 4-12 record, Randle bounced back in February, shortly after the team traded Marcus Morris. Randle averaged 20.5 points/game and 10.9 rebounds/game on 55.1% TS%.
Randle’s improved play with the Knicks under Coach Miller comes at an inflection point for New York. Under a new front office and a new head coach, expectations have changed since last summer. For new coach Tom Thibodeau, his prized cornerstones are RJ Barrett & Mitchell Robinson. Unfortunately, neither Barrett nor Robinson are deft from the perimeter. Adding Randle to the equation only stifles floor spacing, resulting in a constricted offense and more losses. The Knicks definitely have an expectation to win next season and would preferably like to balance their lineups to capitalize on both Barrett & Robinson’s strengths.
It’s to no one’s surprise that Knicks Fan TV reported that trading Randle will be the team’s “number one priority” this offseason.
"“[The] number one priority this offseason for the Knicks will be trading Julius Randle,” Knicks Fan TV reported with The Knick of Time Show on their YouTube show. “They are going to look to trade Julius. And the first trade rumor I am hearing is Julius Randle to the Utah Jazz for Mike Conley and draft considerations.”"
The Knicks have many glaring needs, including upgrading their point guard depth. However, if the Knicks retain Randle for the 2020-21 season, here are 3 goals Coach Thibs can set to make him useful.