Randle, Grimes Grinding in Gloomy Season


This season has been far from a PicKnick.

This year’s Knicks certainly aren’t similar to last year’s. The team is back to where they were two years ago– irrelevant in the NBA competitive landscape.

That doesn’t mean some good can’t come out of it, however. Julius Randle has dramatically improved his play as of late, and Quentin Grimes is shaping up to be a longtime starter and fan favorite.

So let’s take a look at some bright spots among this bleak season, which continued last night in an utter disaster against the skidding Nets.

Randle Rejuvenation

The Knicks rank 29th in the NBA in team pace, but are 19th in the same metric over their last five contests. While they’ve only won one of these games, Randle has been phenomenal, averaging 29.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game while recording his first triple double of the season against the Thunder on February 14th.

You can’t blame Randle for the team’s recent losses when Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel can’t stay healthy. Over those same last five games, the Knicks are allowing the seventh-most rebounds per game.

Love him or hate him, you can’t point the finger at Julius when he’s averaging a double-double.

Glib Thibs

We can point the finger at Tom Thibodeau, who failed to make any offensive adjustments in the Knicks’ collapse to the Blazers on February 11th.

We love Taj Gibson as much as the next guy. Yet, not as much as Thibodeau does. With Robinson out in the fourth quarter against the Blazers, Thibs chose to go with Gibson at center.

It probably would’ve been smarter to play Jericho Sims. Sims was going toe-to-toe with stellar Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic before getting pulled by Thibs.

Thibodeau being stubborn isn’t news to anyone. Still, he needs to let the Gibson era end. With Noel and Robinson being a constant rotation of injuries, it’s Sims time.

Grimes on his Grind

Unlike some other NBA players (looking at you James Harden) Quentin Grimes doesn’t run from the grind. While starting in the Knicks’ three most-recent games, he’s averaging 15.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. On February 14th, he nearly sealed a Knicks game against the Thunder with a tricky reverse layup.

Grimes has been above average from beyond the arc this season too. He’s shooting 39.8% from three-point range. Along with his ability to guard multiple positions, it’s getting to the point where Thibodeau has no choice but to play the rookie.

Blown Lead in Brooklyn

Despite another masterclass Randle performance, the Knicks fell to the Nets in one of their worst losses of the season, blowing a 28-point lead. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving looked on as Cam Thomas single-handedly dismantled the Knicks.

That’s three 20-point leads blown in the the last seven games.

On the year NY is 27th in points per fourth quarter. The team is routinely getting to comfortable in the lead. While RJ Barrett and Derrick Rose will help bolster the offense upon their return from injury, there’s no excuse for this offense to falter consistently at the end of games.

Making the best of it

Will the Knicks make the play-in tournament? That remains to be seen, but even if they don’t there’s still some solid takeaways from this season and the foundation for success is there.

The Knicks have one of the best young cores in the league. If Randle can continue his groove, the team will improve around him. In a newly competitive Eastern Conference there is no room for shortage of talent, but that shouldn’t be an issue in New York.

About Mike Perry

NBA and WNBA writer and podcaster

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