What should Knicks do about Julius Randle’s playoff struggles?

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the Knicks now being up 3-1 in their series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, forward Julius Randle has been playing far below his expectations and it’s starting to worry fans. While players like Jalen Brunson, and as of late, RJ Barrett have picked up the slack, New York still needs Randle to step it up.

While his poor play hasn’t hurt the Knicks too badly, this will not be the same story if they make it to the second round and play either the Heat or Bucks. With this in mind, Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks must figure out a way to minimize his struggles.

We saw flashes of what New York could do with Randle toward the end of Game 4, however, here is a hint of what we could see Thibs do with Randle heading into the final games of this series and potentially the second round as well.

Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau needs to play Obi Toppin or Josh Hart more often

Julius Randle has really been struggling throughout this series thus far. In the first four games, Randle shot 32.3% from the field and 25.8% from three on 7.7 attempts. Alongside this, he looked incredibly disengaged throughout the majority of Game 4, having severe lapses on defense and looking uninvolved offensively if he didn’t have the ball.

Thibodeau made the smart decision to bench Randle throughout the entire final quarter of play in favor of a lineup that involved Brunson, Hart, Barrett, Toppin, and either Mitchell Robinson or Isaiah Hartenstein in the final moments of the game.

This lineup is what helped the Knicks close out Game 4 in epic fashion. While on paper, the lineup should be better with Randle in it as opposed to without, the fluidity of New York’s offense is something that must be taken into account heading forward. When Randle’s shot isn’t hitting, he will have possessions in which he will slow the pace down by trying to get it back going on that side of the ball, often forcing up some rather bad shot attempts.

However, with a lineup that features a much more off-ball oriented player in Toppin, the offense is much calmer and plays at a much higher pace.

While benching Randle is easier said than done, as when his shots are falling there is a genuine case for him to be the best player on the Knicks. However, simply taking him out of the game when the offense is struggling will likely continue to do wonders for the team.

Honestly, Thibodeau benching Randle the whole fourth quarter was incredibly surprising considering his history of overplaying veterans in crucial moments when they really shouldn’t be on the floor. We’re glad to see the old man finally show some growth when New York needed him the most.

Hopefully, entering Game 5 of the first-round series and potentially the second round as well, Thibodeau keeps this strategy up as it will likely continue to produce winning basketball.