NY Knicks: 4 Players who could make or break the 2020-21 season

New York Knicks Dennis Smith Jr. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Dennis Smith Jr. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

1) Knicks Make or Break Player: Julius Randle

Julius Randle underwhelmed in his first season as a Knick for a myriad of reasons. He shot just 27.7% from behind the arc, averaged 3 turnovers per game, needed the ball in his hands in order to make an impact, and averaged fewer points per game than he did with New Orleans while taking more shot attempts.

With the Knicks drafting his likely replacement last month, it seems this season will probably be his last in New York.

However, there is some optimism that he can turn things around. Like most of the team, Randle performed at a much higher level after the firing of David Fizdale. After the coach’s departure, the former Kentucky big man averaged 20.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game on 47% shooting.

He’ll also likely perform even better underneath the tutelage of Thibodeau, especially considering the fact that the former Bulls coach loves to run his offense through the post.

There is also hope that Randle can get closer to the 34% mark from three that he recorded back in 2019. Thibodeau has preached the importance of corner threes, something that the big man is surprisingly adept at. He’s a career 36% shooter from the corners, including hitting 39% off his attempts during last season.

If Thibs can keep him down low on offense while limiting his threes to strictly shots from the corner, the benefits could be reaped by the entire team. Guards such as RJ Barrett, Elfrid Payton, and Dennis Smith Jr. would have much clearer driving lanes if defenses needed to pay attention to Randle spotting up near the sideline.

Even if he can’t lead the Knicks to the playoffs, he could upgrade his value enough so that the front office might look to trade him to a contender at the deadline and get assets in return. This probability is especially high considering the success of the Marcus Morris trade last year.