Julius Randle Makes Resounding Statement on Knicks’ Talent

Julius Randle Immanuel Quickley

Getty Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley of the New York Knicks celebrate during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Their abysmal loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday notwithstanding, the New York Knicks remain a virtual lock to return to the NBA Playoffs after a lottery detour in 2021-22. According to FiveThirtyEight‘s latest RAPTOR projections, we’re talking a 98% chance of holding strong over the season’s final 15 games.

One has to wonder, though — even as the current Knicks are crushing the competition leading up to Game No. 82 — can they truly improve upon their last playoff run in ’20-21?

That year, Julius Randle‘s efforts as the alpha, a huge uptick on the defensive side of the ball and the spark provided by Derrick Rose’s NYC return helped the Knicks win 12 games in 13 tries during a stretch in April/May. As a result, the team entered the playoffs as a top-four seed. Regardless, New York fell short against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

Nevertheless, Randle is of the belief that the March 2023 iteration of the Knicks has something over on the Cinderella club from two years ago.

Julius Randle Says the Current Knicks Have More Talent Than the 2020-21 Crew

Although there are parallels to draw between the Knicks now and then — both teams came on late after entering their respective campaigns with low expectations, for example — Randle sees one key difference when comparing the two.

“I think we’re a better team,” Randle said earlier this week, via the New York Post. “More talented team.”

Whether one agrees with the two-time All-Star or not, his current squad is definitely performing better in some key areas. Right now, the Knicks boast the league’s fifth-best offense, scoring 116.3 points per 100 possessions. In ’21, they ranked just 17th with an O-rating of just 112.0.

Of course, that particular shift does speak to a talent upgrade at one of the most important positions on the floor — the point guard spot. Two years ago, Tom Thibodeau was forced to start Elfrid Payton — who’s now out of the league — 63 times.

Now, he’s got Jalen Brunson, who’s logging a 24-6-4 line and shooting 41% from deep.

Having said all that, does Randle believe that better talent will lead to a better result?

“We’ll see. I can’t really speak on that yet,” he said. “We’re not in the playoffs yet, so I don’t want to speak on that. But I definitely think it’s a team that every day we’re taking the necessary steps and getting better for sure.”

B/R: Knicks Could Surpass the 2021 Teams Win Total

In a feature detailing his “bold predictions” entering the homestretch of the ’22-23 season, Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale went out on a limb when discussing the Knicks’ win total. Specifically, the hoops scribe picked the team to get to the 50-win mark before the regular season ends.

Favale confessed that 50 wins is a “gargantuan ask” for the team, but defended its ability to hit the total as follows:

The Knicks have one of the five easiest schedules in the Eastern Conference… And let’s be realer than real: Thibodeau isn’t about to curb minutes at the top of his rotation when New York remains within reasonable striking distance of home-court advantage to start the playoffs.

Go ahead and do what so few did before the start of the season: book the Knicks for 50-pus victories.