NY Knicks: Julius Randle and the history of the MIP award

New York Knicks, Julius Randle (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
New York Knicks, Julius Randle (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Julius Randle is the ultimate “late-bloomer” and the NY Knicks are thankful that he was wearing orange and blue when he finally realized his potential.

Randle’s 2020/2021 season was one for the record books.

While registering his first appearance as an All-Star and being selected to an All-NBA second team, Randle became just the second player in NBA history to average 20/10/5 while shooting over 40 percent from the three-point line.

Julius Randle had a sensational season with the NY Knicks

More importantly, Randle was the unquestioned leader of a Knicks team that won 41 games, made their first playoff appearance since 2013, and gave everyone in New York hope that the future will be bright at Madison Square Garden.

The seven-year veteran was also this year’s recipient of the Most Improved Player award.

Past winners have included players like Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Brandon Ingram, and 2020 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Interestingly enough, if we look at past winners, and their next season after winning the award, a pattern emerges.

Dating back to 2012, 10 players including Randle have won the award.

Pascal Siakam, Antetokounmpo, CJ McCollum, and Paul George all improved statistically after winning the MIP award.

George, Antetokounmpo, and Siakam were also all selected to the All-Star team following their MIP season.

Additionally, Butler, Ryan Anderson (Yes, that Ryan Anderson), and Ingram recorded almost identical seasons (statistically) to their previous seasons. Butler was selected as an All-Star, but Ingram was not.

The only players that had a dip in production were Victor Oladipo and Goran Dragic.

It should be noted the following Oladipo’s MIP season, he only played 36 games before rupturing his quad. However, he started the 2018/2019 season strong, and despite his injury, was still selected to the All-Star team.

In Dragic’s case, during the 2014/2015 season, he was traded from Phoenix to Miami and went from averaging 20 points per game to 16 points per game. A dip in points per game aside, Dragic has remained a mainstay in Pat Riley’s Heat teams for close to a decade was integral in their finals run last season.

Dragic and Oladipo are the only players that somewhat fit Randle’s profile. Both Dipo and Dragic won the MIP award during their 5th season in the league. This just shows how rare Randle’s improvement really is.

Winning the MIP in your seventh season is unheard of.

If you’re trying to forecast Randle’s performance next year and/or figure out if he’s worth a max contract this summer, typically the players that have won MIP have gone on to brighter and better days.

And while this trend is more of an anecdotal observation and not one of statistical significance, looking at Randle’s position within the team, the Knicks’ plans going forward, and comparing that to past winners is probably an exercise that may lead to a more accurate prediction.

All of the aforementioned winners of the MIP award, with the exception of Anderson and Dragic, were the first options on their respective teams.

Randle currently occupies that role, but it remains to be seen how long that will be the case.

If the Knicks create a godfather-type deal and trade for a superstar or even sign a free agent from this summer’s class like DeMar DeRozan, I could easily see a scenario where Randle’s production takes a dip.

However, if the Knicks are able to finally solve their perennial issues at the point guard position, it’s possible that Randle’s production actually improves.

Any point guard with play-making chops and/or an ability to shoot and stretch the defense would drastically improve the Knicks offense, and as a result, Randle as well.

According to BasketballIndex.com, of all the five-man lineups that played at least 400 minutes, the Knicks most used lineup of Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett, Reggie Bullock, Randle, and Nerlens Noel received a spacing score of 66.2.

But despite the Knicks’ poor spacing or most of the season, according to NBAstats.com, Randle still shot over 40 percent on catch and shoot threes, and 45 percent on threes where he took one dribble.

Drafting or signing a point that provides gravity with his drives to the hoop is imperative.

Last season, Elfrid Payton recorded 9.3 drives per game, which ranked 74th in the NBA within players that played at least 23 minutes per game.

Point blank, that’s not enough.

This puts added pressure on RJ Barrett, and Randle to create for themselves as well as others.

History tells us that Randle will have continued to succeed, but the Knicks are just as responsible for making sure that happens.

Leon Rose definitely needs to do some work this summer!

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