Knicks

The Bright Lights of MSG Remain on Randle

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The New York Knicks are loading up this off-season to become a true title contender and pose a threat to the defending champions, Boston Celtics. 

After making the biggest splash of the off-season by acquiring forward Mikal Bridges from the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks are primed for a bounce back after a disappointing end to the injury-riddled 2023-24 season. 

In addition, the Knicks are bringing back their best defender, OG Anunoby, on a massive five-year, $212 million contract.

With the Knicks possessing four key players who were a part of the 2016 NCAA National Champion Villanova Wildcats, the vibes of the “Nova Knicks” seem to be at an all-time high.

None of those players including Anunoby, however, are most important to the Knicks being a championship-caliber team. 

The Knicks were without three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player Julius Randle for the majority of the season, including the entire postseason. 

Randle was on pace for another stellar season before having a season-ending shoulder injury. The All-Star was averaging 24/5/9.2 per game while having a 56.9% true-shooting percentage.

Randle did struggle a bit from the three-point line this season, though, as he shot just 31.1% from behind the arc compared to 34.3% the year prior. 

The former Kentucky Wildcat is a unique player considering his significant statistical drop off as soon as he plays playoff basketball. That has always been his biggest issue since joining the Knicks back in 2019. Randle’s career playoff splits are 17.1/3.7/7.5 while shooting an abysmal 34.4% from the field. 

Even with the addition of star point guard Jalen Brunson, which helped take some of the scoring load off of Randle, the struggles still continued throughout the 2023 playoffs, shooting 25% from the three-point line. 

After the 2023 season, some called for Randle and the Knicks to go their separate ways. Knicks general manager Leon Rose, however, didn’t have the same vision. Randle stuck around and continued to put up strong regular-season performances prior to the shoulder injury. 

While the Knicks battled throughout the playoffs without their star forward, they ultimately fell short to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Would their outcome have ended differently with a healthy Julius Randle

Some may argue the Knicks were better off without their All-Star forward considering his playoff woes in the past. The good news for Randle and the Knicks, though, is that they are one of the deepest teams in the league and can afford for Randle to have some off nights.

Ultimately, the Knicks go as Randle goes. They rely on him to be their secondary scoring option— he simply has to be better when it matters most. 

The 29-year-old is entering his 11th season in the NBA and arguably his most important, as the Knicks’ championship window is wide open. They cannot afford playoff inconsistencies. Randle also is reaching the end of his contract, and this season could be make or break for Randle and the Knicks relationship. 

All eyes will be on the Knicks and their complete Villanova Wildcat core, but more importantly the return of Julius Randle. The writing is on the wall for the Knicks to be a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.

About Sam Lanier

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