Could Knicks’ star power forward put together an MVP-caliber season?

julius randle, knicks
May 8, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) look on during a free-throw attempt in the fourth quarter during game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are powered by their two-time All-NBA power forward, Julius Randle. His approach in training camp has teammates and coaches raving about the signs he’s shown that he’ll get even better in 2023-24. What can that look like for a New York squad vying for a championship?

Can the Knicks Get Randle to the Line More?

New York Daily News reporter Kristian Winfield made his rounds during Knicks training camp at The Citadel in Charleston, NC., and the one thing everyone had to say about their leader is that his unwavering ‘intensity’ is infectious.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau went further into Randle’s overall mindset, approach, and dedication to improving areas where he’s weak, saying:

“To do what he’s doing, to be All-NBA two out of the last three years is significant,” Thibodeau said, “but the thing that I love is that he’s not satisfied. He wants to be better.” Thibodeau also said, “He’s taking value shots. He got to the line a ton last year, which people don’t recognize how important that is. It was one of the reasons why I felt we were so efficient offensively was because of our ability to get to the line.”

Randle has never shied away from creating contact. It’s always been the backbone of his game, and that reached an apex last year with a career-high 6.9 free throw attempts. He was able to earn easy opportunities at the charity stripe and help New York draw the fifth-most personal fouls per contest.

Where he can be better is in his ability to drain those easy looks. Randle shot 75.7 percent from the foul line. While that won’t incite a mob at Madison Square Garden, he knows what it’s like to shoot above 80 percent, having done so in 2020-21.

Randle is Locked in on Elevating as a Shooter From Outside

Randle likes how his understanding of the game has grown. He received harsh criticism after the Atlanta Hawks took him out of his comfort zone in their 2021 Eastern Conference first-round series, taking away his left hand and forcing him into ill-advised shots.

That has become a thing of the past, and Randle’s jump in three-point shooting has helped him expand his offense. Even though defenders must now play him tight beyond the arc, there’s more that Randle can do to become a true marksman.

His 8.3 attempts from downtown were the most among all power forwards or centers a year ago. He made good on 34.3 percent of those looks. Four out of five power forwards who took five or more threes shot better than him.

The Knicks as a team need much improvement in both the three-point (No. 19 overall) and free throw (No. 22 overall) categories, and having their leader use his intensity to create more looks and cash in will be sure to trickle down to his teammates. Coach ‘Thibs’ creating easier looks on the drawing board for Randle can have the star forward contend for a league MVP — an award that hasn’t been hoisted at MSG since Willis Reed’s storied run in 1970.

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