The Knicks face an interesting decision with regard to Julius Randle in the upcoming series against the Heat. Although the Heat are not as post-oriented as the Cavs, there are no guarantees that Randle will have a place in the starting lineup. His attitude and body language during the Cleveland series led to him being benched in crucial moments. In Game 5, he played only 16 minutes, which can be attributed to his reaggravated ankle injury.
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Randle is a former All-NBA player and was one of the Knicks’ most dominant players during the regular season, posting a 25.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 4.1 APG slash line. However, in the playoffs, he has struggled as a stretch four. Although he started off well against Cleveland, his performance deteriorated over the course of the series. In the final three games, he scored just 31 points and shot 10-34 from the field. He has been struggling with his confidence, and his body language suggests that he may not be feeling himself right now.
It is a difficult decision for Thibs. Does he ride with Randle and let him figure it out, or does he reduce his minutes in favor of other options? If Randle is not healthy, there is no reason for the Knicks to push him through his injury. Players like Hartenstein, Robinson, and Toppin have been crucial for the Knicks so far. If recent games are any indication, maybe it’s best if Randle doesn’t get guaranteed minutes.
The Heat love to run and get in transition, and they have countless shooters who spread the floor and make the extra pass. If the Knicks want to win this series, they need everyone to contribute, but they also need to run the best possible units at all times. They need to account for Jimmy Butler, who has been a dominant force in recent games. Running a small ball lineup may be the best option for the Knicks, and Randle may not be the best fit in this scenario.
Ultimately, Thibodeau will have to make the right decision. The playoffs are a grueling stretch, and you have to run with the hot hand. The future is uncertain for Julius Randle, but if recent games are any indication, he may have limitations against Miami.