The Complexity of Julius Randle and the New York Knicks

On Monday, the New York Knicks suffered a 109-101 loss to the Miami Heat to go down 3-1 in their second-round series. Coming back down 3-1 is extremely rare, as it’s only happened 13 times, and with the way Jimmy Butler and Heat are playing, it looks like New York’s season is practically over.

While Miami has been on an absolute tear this postseason, you can’t help but notice the problems on the other side of the series. The Knicks looks like a shell of themselves, and although they have a win, and two of their losses came by only seven and eight points, Game 3 of the series saw Miami beating New York by 19 points.

It’s difficult to see a team like this falter after manhandling a tough Cleveland Cavaliers squad in just five games, but the truth is, the Knicks just aren’t there yet. What it starts with though, is effort. After the game four loss, Julius Randle said, “Maybe they want it more, I don’t know.” As a die-hard Knicks fan, that’s hard to hear from a team leader.

To answer Randle, yes, the Heat WANTED IT MORE. New York was second in offensive rebounding percentage during the regular season. On Monday, the Heat got offensive rebounds on 38% of their misses. The Knicks? 24 percent (via Cleaning the Glass).

Even just by watching the game, you could see the lack of effort multiple times. A shot would go up, and the players would run back expecting someone else to grab it, only for a Heat player to crash the glass and get a free layup. On defense, nobody wanted to step up against Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, who combined for 50 points and 19 rebounds.

The Knicks had put themselves in a position to make the Eastern Conference Finals. After we saw the Heat eliminate the one-seeded Bucks, and after we watched New York play the best basketball we’ve seen from them all year against Cleveland, there was a real chance they would have the ability to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals. But there were only two players that showed up in the second round, and that’s RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson.

Brunson has been consistent all year, and in the second round, he’s averaging 26.8 points 5.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. Clearly their best player, he was the only player to show true effort and hustle for the Knicks, drawing offensive fouls and going after loose balls, all with an injured ankle he suffered in Game 1. As for Barrett, he’s averaging 22.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, on 42.3% from three. While those aren’t exactly superstar numbers, it’s impressive for the third option of a team with two ball-dominant stars.

Now let’s move to the presumed star of New York. Julius Randle has been nothing short of abysmal in the postseason. While he plays spectacular basketball during the regular season, it’s almost as if the Monstars from Space Jam take away his ability to perform when April rolls around. Out of any player to take 100-plus shots in the postseason, Randle has the worst field goal percentage by far at 34.6%. This postseason, he’s averaging 16.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.

As much as Knicks fans have fallen in love with the lucky lefty, it’s time for his departure. There is a lack of focus and performance come playoff time, and the team will not be winning anytime soon with Randle as the best player. I get it, he’s the reason the Knicks were in the playoffs in the first place, but clearly, that’s all he can do. Postseason basketball is a completely different animal, and Randle isn’t built for it.

The bottom line is, while he puts up All-NBA stats in the regular season, he will be nothing more than a third option if he plays for a contender, and right now, the Knicks are NOT contenders.

The thing is, Leon Rose and Scott Perry have built a solid team around Randle. Brunson has been a phenomenal second scorer, and Barrett is holding his own this season as the third option. Role players Josh Hart and Mitchell Robinson provide elite-level defense and rebounding, plus young guys like Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes are developing nicely.

The problem is clearly at the top; Randle has got to go. I think I and a lot of Knicks fans wouldn’t be so frustrated with him if he didn’t have such horrible body language and mental focus. There is a clear lack of urgency when watching him play. We saw it last year when he infamously gave the Knicks fans a thumbs-down during a down year, and I guarantee that if the NBA didn’t give out fines and suspension, it wouldn’t have been a thumbs-down, it would’ve been a middle finger.

Though his trade value is at an all-time low, the Knicks may still be able to get some type of solid compensation for their star. Even if they don’t, the message is clear: Julius Randle’s tenure as a New York Knick is coming to an end.

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Jed Katz is currently a Journalism student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from Bergen County, NJ, Katz was a writer and editor for the Northern Highlands Regional HS newspaper, as well as a sports anchor for the morning show. He's been invested in the game for years, both being a basketball junkie and playing as a 2-year varsity basketball player. Katz produces content surrounding the NBA, NCAA, and premier high school hoops.