The New York Knicks season ended just how it has in eight of the last nine years – in the draft lottery. The only exception was last season when they made the playoffs despite low expectations entering the year. As a result, expectations were as high as they’ve been since the early-2010s when Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire were electrifying the Garden crowd. Despite those lofty expectations, the Knicks finished the season with just 37 wins. Julius Randle got a lot of the blame, but that’s to be expected as the star player on a disappointing team.
Randle by the Numbers
Randle followed up his 2nd team All-NBA season in 2020-21 with a massive decline in 2021-22. There’s no denying that Knicks fans expected more from Randle, but his raw numbers still look good. He averaged 20.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 5.1 APG, leading the team in all three stats. His efficiency was way down, though. He shot just 41.1% from the field and 30.6% from three as opposed to the 45.6% FG% and 41.1% 3P% that he put up last season. His TS% fell from 56.7% to 50.9% but his shot attempts and usage rate declined only marginally.
Moreso than his standard numbers, Randle’s advanced stats took a huge hit this season. He had 7.8 win shares (.140 WS/48) in 2020-21 but just 3.1 (.059 WS/48) in 2021-22. Randle’s BPM (Box Plus-Minus) fell from 3.8 to just 0.5 in 2021-22. His 15.7 PER was his lowest since his first full NBA season in 2015-16. His RAPTOR WAR (FiveThirtyEight’s Wins Above Replacement Model) fell from 7.7 to -0.9, fueled by his on/off rating of -9.5.
Randle’s Diminishing Role
In the first half of the season, Julius Randle was playing a role similar to the one he played in 2020-21, he frequently had the ball in his hands in isolation and led the team in shot attempts. However, in the second half, he took somewhat of a back seat to RJ Barrett, who ascended to a 24 PPG scorer in the new year. Moving forward, a role with Randle as the secondary or even tertiary scoring option might be beneficial for the Knicks.
Although not entirely his fault, Randle was part of a group of veterans who held the Knicks back from their ceiling. The Knicks won seven of their past eleven games as their young guys saw increased roles. Lineups that featured Obi Toppin at the power forward were much more efficient than those with Randle, however, one of the Knicks’ most efficient groups included both Toppin and Randle. Coach Tom Thibodeau seemed reluctant to play them together, but they may need to move that way as Toppin continues to improve.
Randle’s Season Grade: C-
Knicks fans’ opinions on Randle were divisive throughout the season. Some defended his 20-10-5 statline, while others called out his poor attitude and inefficiency. Personally, it’s tough to defend Randle’s on-court play, but his antics are to be expected of someone with such weight on their shoulders. Randle signed a four-year, $106 million extension that kicks in this offseason, and it’s clear that he wants to be in New York for years to come despite being booed off the court on multiple occasions. Fans calling for Randle to be traded or benched couldn’t have helped the situation either.
There’s clearly still a productive player here, Randle is just a year removed from carrying the Knicks to a top-4 seed. While this season was very disappointing as he and his team failed to meet expectations, it’s way too early to give up on the former All-Star.
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