After a 10-13 start to the season, the New York Knicks were staring down the barrel of another losing season. Since then, the Knicks have gone 15-8 and are looking like sudden playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference. What changed? Julius Randle decided to start playing like an All-Star again.
Julius Randle’s All-Star Play Has Reenergized the New York Knicks
New York Bringing Offense and Defense This Season
The Knicks are far from the best team in the NBA. With Tom Thibodeau’s coaching style firmly imprinted on the team, it is no surprise that New York is seventh in scoring defense, 11th in defensive rating, and 26th in pace. All of these numbers scream Thibs’ style.
However, the Knicks have been playing a brand of inspired offense that is atypical of Thibodeau-coached teams. Sporting the sixth-highest offensive rating in the NBA, New York has been top-tier on both sides of the court this season.
Julius Randle’s All-Star Trajectory
While Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett are both 20-plus points per game scorers, it has been Randle that has been carrying the Knicks offensively. After a “down” season in 2021-22, Randle has returned to his All-Star-caliber play in 2022-23.
Randle is currently averaging career-highs in points per game (24.2), rebounds per game (10.7), and three-pointers made (2.6) and attempted (7.7) per game. Not only is he bolstering the Knicks’ offense on a nightly basis, but he also has New York climbing the standings in the East.
Too Many Minutes? Or Enough to be an All-Star?
Although it is nice to see Randle returning to his All-Star potential, Barrett finding his groove as a 20-plus scorer, and Brunson flourishing with his new team, they are playing an absurd amount of minutes. Each of these three are playing over 34 minutes per game, which is a surefire way to see injuries toward the second half of the season.
Thankfully, Randle has not missed a game this season; Barrett and Brunson have missed six and three games, respectively. If these three can stay healthy, the Knicks can continue climbing the Eastern Conference standings.
Currently, Randle is probably enjoying the heavy minutes. His increased playing time, coupled with zero games missed, has given him a massive advantage when it comes to All-Star consideration. While certain players (Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, etc.) should be locks to make the All-Star Game as Eastern Conference forwards, there are other forwards who have missed substantial time in the East. Jimmy Butler and Khris Middleton are two All-Star staples, but due to injuries of varying severity this season limiting their on-court minutes, they are less likely to earn the All-Star nod this season than in years past. With Randle’s stellar play and maximized games played leading the charge, he could cement himself into the All-Star squad for the second time in three seasons.
The Last Word on Julius Randle and the New York Knicks
With Randle a near-lock to earn a second All-Star nod in February, the Knicks have an outside shot of making the playoffs without having to participate in the dreaded play-in tournament. There is still a long way to go in the season, but if Randle can keep the Knicks afloat in the East, the Big Apple will be ablaze during the playoffs, which is always a good thing for the NBA.