The New York Knicks are making a case early in the 2020-21 NBA season that they’re one of the teams in the Eastern Conference vying for a place in the playoffs. While it’s still early, there’s no denying that these Knicks are better than the team who took the floor in 2019. But wait. The core from that team who won just 21 games is still there. And that includes Julius Randle.
Randle, last season averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting .460 percent from the floor in 65 games. The reason why Randle has been a hot topic during his time in NYC is that, for most fans, he isn’t a true fit. He’s not labeled as a great defender and he has struggled as a stretch four. For that reason alone, the Knicks decided to take Obi Toppin in the 2020 NBA Draft with the 8th pick as the possible replacement for Randle at the PF position.
That move was done to make it easy for the Knicks to possibly trade Randle by either the trade deadline or the offseason and let Toppin move into Randle’s role. But that’s why they play the game on the floor and not in the Draft Room. Since the start of the season, Randle has been nothing short of a beast for the surprising Knicks.
This season, Randle is averaging 23.1 points and 12.0 rebounds with a shooting percentage of .485 but also hitting .344 percent from three-point territory. But what does this all mean for the Knicks, Toppin, and Randle?
Since the departure of Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks have searced for a face of the franchise. They believed they had one in Kristaps Porzingis but the Knicks sent him packing as well. Randle came over last offseason as a free agent and no one thought he would fit into that role. Randle is not vocal, does not care for the spotlight, nor does he have a flashy game.
But what he does bring is his lunch pail to work every night and get the job done. This season, Randle is leading the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists. What hasn’t he been able to do? The drafting of Toppin may have lit a fire under Randle. Toppin, the young forward has played in just one game with averages of just 9.0 points and 3.o rebounds.
If Randle’s pace continues, he will make the All-Star team and then what will the Knicks do? Will they gamble their future on a young kid who still is not ready for the pro game? Or, will they ride it out with Randle who has shown that he can handle the weight of what NYC has to offer and still not lose any sleep?
This is a tough call and one that the New York Knicks did not see coming.