This can’t be the season Knicks forward Julius Randle envisioned coming off a career year where he averaged 24 points per game, led his team to the playoffs, was named Most Improved Player, and became a first time All-NBA selection. The Knicks are in 11th place in the East now, with no real chance at the postseason, and Randle’s scoring output has dipped back to just above 20 ppg.
Last year Randle and the Knicks reeled off eight different streaks of three or more victories during the regular season. Through 72 games this season, the Knicks haven’t had a winning streak longer than three, and they’ve only done that three times. Following a huge 2020-21 season from Randle, most thought the Knicks were back, even though they flamed out in Round 1 of the postseason. We thought it was the start of something new, with all the Bing Bong nonsense and Randle leading the charge.
It feels like the basketball gods have intervened with a challenge flag. Randles’ break-out year seems like nothing more than an anomaly now. New York hadn’t made the playoffs since 2013 before last season. Randle was dominant at times, and it looked like the franchise had finally turned a corner after several years of futility.
Now Randle and the Knicks are back in the sort of funk New York fans are far too familiar with. The Knicks will finish under .500 for the eighth time in nine years. For Randle, it’s been a disappointing campaign for many reasons. He’s been fined a total of $130,000 this season. Nobody’s going to shed any tears for Randle since his four-year, $117 million extension kicks in next season, plus he’s making $21.8 million this year.
But he hasn’t really lived up to either figure this season, although he’s still posting good numbers. They just aren’t equal to last year’s, nor is he affecting games in the same manner. Randle is down significantly in most of the key offensive statistical categories, including his points, obviously, along with his shooting percentages across the board.
There was an incident a couple of months ago where he gave the New York crowd a thumbs down gesture during a game. It’s been a struggle for Randle all season, and it’s not like he’s missed much action either. He’s only missed four games all year, so we can’t say he’s been frequently injured like Anthony Davis in Los Angeles. Davis’ stats have declined this year, too, but he’s also been in and out of the lineup. A guy who played like a No. 1 option last year (until the postseason) is looking like nothing more than another role player. Randle just hasn’t played at the same level. He’s not on Davis’ level, but is still an essential ingredient for the Knicks.
The Knicks thought they’d found their Batman, and just needed a Robin, but now it seems they’re right back to the search for that franchise-changing force. No one was calling Randle a superstar, but once you average 24 ppg for an entire year, that catapults you into another realm, and fans begin to expect those performances. Remember the MVP chants at the Garden last year? Well, this second act on Broadway hasn’t lived up to the first, and probably it won’t fare any better in the future.
In each of the two years prior to last season, Randle hovered between 19-21 ppg. He’s right back within that range this year at 20.3. That’s the reality for Julius Randle and the Knicks. He’s a good player, best suited as the second or third option on a good team. These next four years will probably be rough if the Knicks keep depending on Randle to lead the way. Looks like it’s back to hoping to land a big-name free agent in the offseason for Knicks fans. Damian Lillard might be available soon. In a perfect world, it could happen.