Even in light of their disappointing postseason bout against the Atlanta Hawks, there are so many positives to take away from the New York Knicks’ 2020-2021 season.
And most of them stem directly from Julius Randle’s historic seventh season, his second with the club.
The 26-year old forward finished the regular season averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and six assists per game.
It earned him a slew of honors, including Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Eastern Conference Player of the Month, a first-time All-Star nomination, and the Most Improved Player of the year award.
New York finished with a 41-31 record, as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and made their first playoffs appearance since the 2012-2013 season.
To top it all off, Julius Randle was awarded the final honor that can be bestowed based on regular-season performance in the NBA on Tuesday night.
A Fitting Conclusion
New York Knicks fans were cautiously optimistic that Julius Randle would make one of three All-NBA teams.
And their faith was rewarded on Tuesday night when the three five-man lineups were announced on TNT.
Randle was named to the All-NBA Second Team, alongside Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, and Joel Embiid.
It was nothing short of a momentous year for the 26-year old, and few players needed it more than him.
Randle’s first year with the Knicks wasn’t so storybook, but that’s a large piece of why this year was so impressive.
No fanbase has gone through a more dramatic change of heart regarding one player in recent history than those in New York, who spent the entire 2020 offseason begging the team to trade him.
With the help of first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau, who also received honors in the form of the NBA’s Coach of the Year award, Randle was able to mount a full breakout campaign in year seven.
He lead the Knicks in all of points, rebounds, and assists per game, and became just the third player in history to average 20 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists while shooting 40 percent from three.
The other two were Larry Bird in 1985, and Nikola Jokic this year, which notably saw him named the league MVP.
As Dean of Knicks Film School, Jonathan Macri, notes on Twitter, Randle is only the fourth Knicks player to be named to the All-NBA Second Team since Patrick Ewing first received honors in 1991:
Hopefully, this is just the start of an illustrious New York career for Julius Randle, who’s cemented his case to be extended long-term by the Knicks this summer.
What was once viewed as a complex decision has transformed into one of the NBA’s top no-brainer moves this summer.
What Does This Mean for the New York Knicks?
As opposed to players like Jayson Tatum and Luka Donic, Julius Randle’s All-NBA honors have no contractual implications.
He was eligible for neither the rookie-max extension nor the super-max, so his outlook remains the same.
Randle’s salary for the 2021-2022 season is non-guaranteed, north of $21-million.
No decision in the history of mankind has ever been easier than the New York Knicks guaranteeing the last year of his contract.
But that represents just the first of a hefty offseason agenda, of which Randle takes up the first two bullets.
Once his salary for next season is guaranteed, the Knicks are expected to engage him in talks for an extension.
New York can offer the first-year All-Star a four-year deal worth upwards of $104-million as it stands today.
But it’s unclear how Randle and his camp will approach those negotiations.
As is the case with Chicago Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine, he could simply hold out, if he and those close to him think the same number (or more likely, a larger one) will be on the table next summer.
Some think that to be a dangerous mindset, given the nearly unprecedented nature of his improvement this year.
Regardless, it will be entirely up to Julius Randle as to whether or not he lands a new deal this offseason.
Because after a year like the one he’s had with the New York Knicks, there’s little to discuss in regards to whether or not they should keep him around in both the immediate future and long term.
Your move, Leon Rose.