When the New York Knicks needed their All-Star power forward the most, Julius Randle flopped during the postseason against the Atlanta Hawks. After averaging 24.1 points per game, Randle didn’t post more than 20 points until the fourth game of the series in Atlanta, when he recorded 23. His rebounds remained in the double digits, and his assist numbers were consistently high, but his turnovers skyrocketed, with the most coming in the final game of the series when he committed eight. Randle only turned the ball over 3.4 times per game last season, which is an unreasonably high number, but his playoff issues were glaring.
Looking towards the future, Randle remains excited and optimistic about the upcoming season but detailed his struggles during the postseason and why he failed to play to his potential.
“I could have made the game more simple,” Randle said Monday at Knicks’ media day. “Part of that was me being me, putting a lot on my shoulders. Not making the moment bigger than what it was but just me wanting to be great in that moment. So I just feel like it was overcomplicated but I’m excited to get back there this season.”
Despite his issues against Atlanta, the Knicks extended Randle on a four-year, $117 million contract. The deal will pay him under $30 million per season but offers him a player option in 2025, which is essentially the kicker in the deal to keep his salary hit lower in case the Knicks need to free up any money.
With the need to extend RJ Barrett in the future, most likely, Randle took one for the team and presented the front office with flexibility. In fact, the entire team seems to be buying into the culture and mentality, which should fuel them to another postseason appearance, where Randle can hopefully dominate.
After an incredible season where he became the Knicks’ franchise player and face of the team, it is essential he pieces together another successful campaign. He saw improvements in nearly every important category, watching his three-point percentage increase nearly 14% to 41.1% and his free-throw percentage increasing to 81%.
As a quality defender and elite scorer, Randle has begun to add different elements to his game, including long-range shooting and the ability to create for others. The signings of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier should take significant pressure off the power forward, which will hopefully open up the floor and provide him with easier looks at the basket. One of the primary reasons Randle struggled during the postseason was due to a physical Atlanta team that didn’t respect the Knicks’ alternative playmakers, focusing on Randle and triple-teaming him in the paint.
Fortunately, that strategy will no longer be available, as with Walker, Fournier, and Barrett, the Knicks have plenty of weapons to punish teams for hyper-focusing on Julius.