What more is there to say about the New York Knicks? As a whole, the team has been thoroughly underwhelming. The organisation, from top to bottom, appears to be in a consistent state of denial and their players’ performances on the court have reflected this.
Julius Randle is one such player. He was destined for greater things but instead has suffered greatly due to multiple factors that aren’t entirely his fault. While the Knicks recently won back-to-back games for the first time this season, in which Randle led his team in scoring and fell one rebound shy of his second straight double-double, the roster looks unconcerned and disjointed about the outcome of results. It’s as if they have come to an agreement that the season should be written-off.
Randle’s points per game have dropped to 17.4, from 21.4 last season, and he’s started all 27 games so far in New York. His and the team’s turnovers are up, with his shooting percentage from the field dropping from a reliable 52 percent to a not-so-reliable 44 percent.
His sporadic three-point shot, which has always been a so-so aspect of his offensive game, has also become non-existent this season. Randle has taken 102 shots from behind the arc so far this campaign and made just 27 of them. That’s a poor 26.5 percent, in a league where the average this season is currently 35 percent. Based on that stat line alone, it’s easy to see why opposing teams don’t think twice about leaving him open, and in the modern game, that says a lot.
It’s tough to tell to what extent Randle’s struggles are his own fault or a combination of organisational ineptitude and bad teammates, but so far he has failed to take the next step in his development. Things aren’t exactly going to plan.
His first four seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers saw him consistently improve, and he became known for his hustle, heart and attitude to the game. These qualities saw him overcome an opening night injury, which sidelined him for his entire rookie campaign. His time with the Lakers came at an interesting period in the franchise’s history but Randle did what he could with the time around him. Randle then moved onto New Orleans, where he showed signs of continued development, taking a supporting to role to Anthony Davis and increasing his reputation as a double-double machine. As a standout player for the Pelicans, his game became more well-rounded, more focused under head coach Alvin Gentry. Going into this summer, Randle was unmistakeably on an upward trajectory. Then New York happened.
Now, barely three months into the season, his development has stagnated, and according Steve Popper of Newsday, the Knicks are reportedly “open” to trading Randle, even though he’s under contract through the 2021-22 season.
It makes sense. After all, Randle is perhaps one of just two players – the other being Marcus Morris – the team would be able to get a solid return for. His uneven start to the season will undoubtedly make a lot of teams think twice about trading for him, but in reality, everyone knows what he provides on the court. Randle is reaching the midpoint of his career and his best basketball is yet to come, he’s a risk worth taking, and with New York trying to balance playing time for their older veterans, against on-court experience for their young core, it would be surprising if the team didn’t make at least one deal before the trade deadline.
Moving Randle helps both parties, and at this point, everyone but RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and perhaps Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, should be on the table for a team that is not going anywhere this season. A trade could help to accelerate the rebuild, even if it meant trading away talented pieces.