Knicks: Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau have opposite views of defensive quality

knicks, julius randle
May 26, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari (8) moves the ball against New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

One of the Knicks‘ biggest concerns this year has been defensive efficiency. They currently rank 23rd with a 111 defensive rating, far below their 4th place ranking during the 2020–21 season.

The dramatic falloff was a result of Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton leaving the team in free agency, a move that everybody assumed it would be positive after adding more offensive weapons. However, Kemba Walker has been a liability, providing nonexistent defense and spotty offensive production, and Evan Fournier has produced a similar result.

The Knicks needed their All-Star power forward, Julius Randle, to step up and have another elite season, but he has struggled on both ends of the ball, watching his three-point percentage plummet to 33.5% at his defensive rating elevate to 113.2 from 106.8 last year.

Randle believes he’s playing great defense, though, the opposite message Tom Thibodeau conveyed regarding everybody on the team.

“I feel like I’m playing pretty good,” Randle said regarding his defense, via the NY Post. “Being able to switch, guard perimeter players and post players. Versatility, being able to do that. So whatever coach asks me, whatever he needs me to do, I’m going to go out there and do it 100 percent. But yeah, I feel like I’m pretty good on that end.”

Thibodeau indicated that everybody needs to contribute more, not just a singular individual. Communication, energy, effort, and positioning have all been negative factors leading to a sub .500 team.

“We gotta get more from everyone,” Tom Thibodeau said regarding Randle’s efficiency. “It’s not an individual thing. It’s a team thing, so we gotta get everyone playing better.”

Randle currently hosts a -7.5 net rating, his lowest since the 2016–17 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. His offensive production has improved since then, but he has fallen away from his previous All-Star form. He connected on 40% of three-point shots last season, making him a more efficient scorer and adding a different element to his game.

At this point in the year, though, it is evident that the Knicks lack a star player to pair with a Randle. He, unfortunately, does not possess the quality to dominate at a level that puts his team in a position to win on a nightly basis. He’s not a Kevin Durant or James Harden level player, who the Brooklyn Nets have just a train ride away.

The players need to start taking responsibility for their performances, indicating in previous days that their energy hasn’t been completely present. It seems as if they may lack a motivating leader behind the scenes to help elevate the squad.