It’s hard to imagine where the New York Knicks would be without Julius Randle, whose leap from role player to All-Star has fueled their first playoff run since 2014.
Now 35-28, they’ve got sole possession of the fourth-seed in the Eastern Conference.
With nine games to go, it’s becoming safer and safer to spread the news: the New York Knicks are back.
A Star In His Own Right
Maybe those outside of the New York Knicks fandom can’t see it, but Julius Randle’s game has taken a nice shape since his days playing in 30-point blowouts as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 26-year old can score on almost anyone, and defensively, he’s gone from liability to serviceable.
And he can shoot threes now!
Randle is connecting on 42 percent of his shots from deep this season, after shooting just a .277 clip last year—an unprecedented jump in every way.
On top of that, the Knicks’ forward is averaging a career-high 5.9 assists. But it’s where they’re landing, and what they’re resulting in that makes his passing truly special, notes Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated in his latest:
Randle assists a league-leading 1.23 corner threes per game, right ahead of LeBron James and Nikola Jokić. In the preceding four seasons, Randle’s corner three assist average was 0.33. Quite a jump!
Pina wrote this on Wednesday, before New York’s win over the Chicago Bulls, but the point still stands. Randle’s average has dropped to 1.21 nightly in the aftermath of their latest game, but he’s still right there with in elite company.
The remainder of the top-five? John Wall, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Ben Simmons.
And given James’ continued absence for the Lakers, it seems worth noting that Randle has still tallied more assists on corner threes in total than anyone this season, with 75 through his 62 games played, per PBP Stats.
In a year where offense has proved more troublesome than defense, for the Knicks to have capable passing that sets up quality three-point looks is crucial.
As much as New York’s needed Randle’s career-high 24.1 points per game, each and every night, don’t mistake that as the lone pillar for their success.
In games where he’s scored 30+ or more points, the Knicks are 10-1 this season. And in games where he tallies 10 or more assists, they are 5-2.
Updated Knicks Playoff Odds
After their win over the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks improve to 35-28 and the Eastern Conference fourth-seed.
According to Five Thirty Eight’s forecast, their chances at making the playoffs have climbed to 92 percent.
But the website is still giving the team a less than one percent shot at making and/or winning the 2021 NBA Finals.
That number could increase if they retain homecourt going into the postseason.
New York’s currently tied with the fifth-seed Atlanta Hawks, with a two-game lead on both the sixth-seed Boston Celtics and the seventh-seed Miami Heat.
So it seems a playoff appearance is a near-lock for the Knicks, who’ve missed the cut in seven consecutive seasons.
However, what seed they end up entering in as remains up in the air.
Tankathon.com has New York’s remaining schedule as the seventh-toughest in the entire NBA.
Nine games to go.