The New York Knicks followed up their Cinderella story 2020-21 run where they nabbed the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference standings and saw their first playoff berth since 2013 with an absolute dud of a 2021-22 campaign, finishing things off with a sub-.500 record of 37-45 and, in turn, missed out on the postseason for the 16th time since the turn of the century.
Now, as we approach their October 19 tip-off, the ball club is looking to bounce back in 2022-23, and a key factor in them accomplishing this goal will be based on the play of their high-priced power forward, Julius Randle.
The main protagonist of their stellar season from two years back the big man was a true force to be reckoned with, posting sensational averages of 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game on 45.6% shooting from the floor and 41.1% shooting from deep.
With his efforts, he helped the Knicks claim homecourt advantage in the 2021 postseason and earned his first All-Star nod and All-NBA selection along the way.
As a result of his high-end production, the front office rewarded him with a new four-year, $117 million contract and, in a sense, bestowed him with the proverbial “keys to the franchise.”
Unfortunately, the following season he did not possess the same glow and played at a far less efficient rate, which, considering he served as New York’s number one option, played a huge role in the team’s 11-seed finish.
Obviously, in order for both Randle and the franchise to have a bounce-back campaign, they’ll need to try and put the past behind them and come into the year with a clean slate.
Apparently, it seems that is exactly what the forward is looking to do, as he recently went about and deleted all of his previous activity on Instagram while putting up a new post with a collage of workout photos with a caption of “Back at it!
Randle Still Impressed in ‘Down Year’
No Knicks fan will state that the 2021-22 version of Julius Randle was anywhere close to what he was in 2020-21, but it’s hard to say that, at least from an individual standpoint, he wasn’t an impressive producer.
Sure his numbers fell drastically all across the board when in comparison to the season before, but it was still a rather productive year in the grand scheme of his career.
Even with this “down season,” Randle still went on to put up impressive per-game averages, posting 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists through 72 games. To put this into perspective, the only other players who exceeded those numbers in each category last season were Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Should he put up similar averages this year while also improving upon his shooting splits (converted on 41.1% of his attempts from the floor and 30.8% from distance) and turnover rate (coughed up 3.4 as night) the All-Star game may not be out of the question for the 27-year-old.
Knicks Not a ‘Play-In’ Lock
Former New York Knicks head coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Gundy recently spoke with the New York Post and gave his opinions on his old club heading into the 2022-23 campaign, and, as writer Marc Berman shared in his September 7 piece on the talks, he’s not too high on their chances of finishing with a top-tier seed come year’s end.
“The Knicks have good players, but you line it up against the competition in the East, and this roster is not on the same level,’’ Van Gundy told The Post. “They could shock the world and be a playoff team, but I look at the East and I’d have to say eight to 13 is where they should be predicted. They’re not even close to a lock for the play-in. A lot has to go right.’’
Van Gundy would later go on to state that in order for them to “make a jump in the standings” the Knicks need to have one or two star building blocks in tow. While Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and RJ Barrett are all talented players, the Rochester native views them more as “fringe All-Stars” rather than locked-in stars.