Should the Knicks be getting worried about Julius Randles’ availability for the postseason?

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) is helped by medical staff after an injury during the second half against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Talks about the New York Knicks being legitimate championship contenders are not as pronounced as they were in early February. Part of the reason why the Knicks’ stock has fallen shortly after their splash at the trade deadline is because of Julius Randle’s continued absence due to a dislocated shoulder.

When Randle suffered the injury against the Miami Heat on Jan. 27, the hope was that he’d be back on the court by now. As time has waned and the Knicks’ winning ways have fluctuated, the missing piece to their puzzle has been the 2023 All-NBA Third Team honoree.

Knicks being patient with Julius Randle’s rehab from dislocated shoulder

Stefan Bondy of the New York Post revealed that the Knicks and head coach Tom Thibodeau are taking a patient approach to bringing Randle back. As a result, the 2024 NBA All-Star has not begun contact drills in practice yet.

He’s still a ways away from being cleared from game action with at least two more hurdles to jump over from a conditioning perspective. Thankfully, the Knicks have gotten stellar contributions from Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart in his stead, as well as a formidable interior with Isaiah Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa stepping up to the plate.

Where the Knicks have missed Randle’s services in his 2-month absence

However, Randle’s dynamic playmaking is lacking in their offense. The Knicks were fourth in points in the paint for the month of December, once Randle turned the corner after a poor start to the season. They managed to rank No. 16 in January. Once he went down, New York fell to No. 23 in February and an even worse No. 26 in March.

The Knicks’ offensive rating has also dipped by 13 spots to No. 19 (113.3) in February but has since slightly recovered to No. 13 overall (115.5) in March. Randle’s aggression in the driving lanes, and ability to draw multiple defenders and find open men, particularly on the strong side, are invaluable additions that the Knicks have clearly missed by the looks of their diminished metrics.

There are only 10 games remaining on the Knicks’ regular season schedule before the postseason rolls around. Already known to struggle in the playoffs, Randle may be reinserted into the lineup with rust that may be too late to shake off.

The Knicks have real championship-contending foes in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics seem to have their number, sweeping their four-game season series while the Milwaukee Bucks pose a threat to every team out East. Unless Randle comes back and quickly rounds into form, the Knicks could also face problems against the Cleveland Cavaliers and their sizable front line and a Philadelphia 76ers aiming for reigning MVP Joel Embiid to return in April.

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