In the best season of his career, Julius Randle has given New York something to savor
Basketball and New York go together like peanut butter and jelly, like macaroni and cheese, like chips and salsa. Seeing the resurgence in relevance of the New York Knicks has been one of the most pleasant surprises of this season. The Knicks in the playoffs feels right and complete. Hoops are grilled cheese and the Knicks are tomato soup. I’m probably stretching the hell out of the food analogies, but you get the point. The stellar play of Julius Randle has been one of the main reasons the Knicks are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Randle’s is a great story. He should be an inspiring example to other players. Impatient fans of other franchises would do well to take note of his season as well.
Early NBA Days
Randle turned the corner this season and for a few weeks, he was climbing the MVP ladder. It’s been a long journey for him. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers after playing one season at the University of Kentucky. Unfortunately, he and broke his leg minutes into his pro debut and subsequently missed his entire rookie season.
Randle was serviceable for L.A. over the course of the next three campaigns, raising his points per game average every season while pulling down a steady amount of rebounds. He improved his shooting percentage, showing a dedication to craft. Randle signed with New Orleans as a free agent and had a career best in points per game.
Welcome to NYC
After one season, he signed with the Knicks in that explosive 2019 free agent signing period. That was the summer that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined the other team from New York. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. Those were all regarded as earth altering moves. Randle’s signing was noted with a general shrug. I remember the ridicule and despair from fans as the Knicks had seemingly assembled a full squad of power forwards.
His first season in New York was similar to his most recent effort in New Orleans. This season, however, things were a little bit different.
A quick glance at the numbers show marked improvement in points per game (another career high of 24.1) and rebounds per outing. He doubled his assists per game from 3.1 to 6.0, and his shooting percentage from beyond the arc was an outstanding 41%. He showed pronounced improvement in free throw percentage as well. All of this is clear evidence that he put in the necessary work in the off-season.
The Most Improved Player or just development?
Randle will undoubtedly be named the league’s Most Improved Player for this season. I have a slight quibble with that however. [Editors note: He did win it!]
Don’t get me wrong, I think Randle is fully deserving of the award, but I think it also does him a bit of a disservice. I’ve seen his play this season look more like development than outright improvement, which would indicate that the general consensus was that he had plateaued. I think that sometimes players need a little time to find themselves and where they fit, both in the league and on their respective teams. This is where I think players around the league can take note.
Expectations were high of the lottery pick. Although he was relatively solid, there was a feeling bordering on “meh” when it came to considering his talents and skills. Randle put in the hours however, and showed tremendous professionalism in becoming the focal point of this New York Knicks squad that is currently the toast of the town. Sorry about that, Brooklyn Nets, but it’s true. The lesson here is that there is always time to get things right.
Hey now, you’re an All-Star
He made his first All-Star game this season. This was his seventh season in the league. Fans get impatient with young players, especially if they’re lottery picks. We expect a franchise changer every season and we expect dividends immediately. The truth is there aren’t that many players that can just step in and do that. Sometimes it takes time to mature in the NBA.
As fans, we forget that our hopes and dreams are being put squarely on the shoulders of young men barely old enough to vote and not even legally eligible to consume alcohol in many states. We, as fans, need to be more patient. We should be willing to wait for the Julius Randle’s of the league to come into their own. It’s worth the wait. After all, preparing and enjoying a good meal should never be rushed.
Do you have a story about your favorite team? Why do you bleed purple, or green, or blue? Let us know. thePeachBasket was created to be the Voice of the Fan! Every fan has a story. What’s yours?
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