Much has been made about the New York Knicks’ lack of success
over the past two decades. The Knicks have won just one playoff
series this century. They've also had only one player garner
consideration for the Most Valuable Player award — Carmelo Anthony,
during the 2012-13 campaign when New York advanced to the Eastern
Knicks fans are hoping that both those ignominious facts change
To that end, Julius Randle has done his part, and then some. But
to this point, he hasn't received much mention of being among the
league’s most valuable players.
Here’s why his name belongs in the conversation...
Back in December, multiple outlets projected New York to finish
with one of the league's worst records. Las Vegas set the Knicks
over/under win total at 22. Well, with fewer than a dozen contests
remaining in the 2020-21 season, the Knicks have already racked up
34 victories and find themselves in fourth place in the Eastern
Conference standings, meaning this once woebegone franchise would
host Game 1 of an opening-round playoffs series if the postseason
And the biggest reason, by far, for New York's shocking success
has been the awe-inspiring play of its All-Star power forward.
Randle ranks inside the top-15 in the NBA this season in
scoring, rebounding and dishing, averaging a whopping 24.0 points,
10.5 boards, 6.0 assists and 2.2 made three-pointers, while posting
a True Shooting percentage of 57.3%. With less than a month left in
the regular season, he is on pace to become just the second player
in NBA history to average at least 20/10/6 and two made threes per
game (joining Russell Westbrook, who matched those numbers during
his otherworldly 2016-17 MVP campaign).
Basketball-Reference, Randle is also on track to become the
second player ever to average more than 10 rebounds and more than
five assists while shooting over 40% from behind the three-point
arc and over 80% from the charity stripe. The only other player
currently in the exclusive club is Larry Bird (who notched those
numbers in 1984-85, winning the MVP award in the
To put Randle's superlative statistics in context to his
contemporaries this season, consider this:
- Randle has scored more points than Kawhi Leonard
and Devin Booker in 2020-21.
- Randle has grabbed more rebounds than Joel
Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- Randle has handed out more assists than Stephen
Curry and Ben Simmons.
- Randle has made more three-pointers than Trae
Young and Bradley Beal.
- Randle is shooting a higher percentage from
three than Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving.
- For the analytics crowd, Randle has a higher
VORP than Chris Paul and Rudy Gobert.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines the
word "valuable" as "very helpful or important." Those adjectives
most certainly apply to Randle, whose contributions have been
indispensable to the Knicks.
He leads New York in total points, boards, dimes, steals, made
three-pointers and made free throws. Randle is the only player in
the NBA this season that is his team's outright leader in each of
those statistical categories.
Earlier this month, in a victory against the Dallas Mavericks,
Randle racked up 44 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. After the
game, head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters that Randle's
"aggressiveness set the tone," adding, "I've said it many times:
He's our engine. He makes us go."
In last Wednesday's win over the Atlanta Hawks, Randle became
just the fourth player in NBA history (joining James Harden, Kevin
Durant, and Westbrook) to tally 40+ points and more than 10
rebounds, 10 made free throws, 5 assists and 5 made triples in a
single game. Coming into this season, no Knickerbocker, in the
70-year history of the franchise, had ever recorded a 40/10/5/5
game. Randle's done it twice in the past two weeks.
Legendary football coach Bill Parcells is credited with coining the phrase
"availability is the best ability," and that's another area where
Randle has outpaced his peers (thanks in large part to Coach Thibs'
fearlessness when it comes to leaning heavily on his key cogs).
Randle has missed just one contest this season and leads the NBA in
minutes played, just ahead of Nikola Jokic (RJ Barrett ranks
When determining a potential candidate's MVP credentials, team
success is also undeniably part of the equation. As noted above,
the Knicks have certainly exceeded expectations.
New York enters play on April 26 with a nine-game winning
streak. The Utah Jazz, owners of the NBA's best record, are the
only other team in the league to record a winning streak longer
than eight games in 2020-21. According to NBA.com, the Knicks
are the only team in the NBA to rank in the top five in both
Defensive Rating (107.2) and Offensive Rating (116.5) in April. New
York leads the league in net
rating this month, having outscored their opponents by 119
points in the 13 games they have played.
Most pundits believe Jokic is a lock to win this season's Most
Valuable Player Award, and rightfully so. Embiid, Curry and Luka
Doncic, in some order, will likely round out the top four. It is
very likely that one of those deserving four will end up winning
Still, it can easily be argued that Randle deserves to land
somewhere in the top 10, and if the Knicks can hold onto the fourth
seed, he could rise as high as fifth.
Surprisingly, in NBA.com’s most recent MVP ranking, published late last week,
senior writer Michael C. Wright did not have Randle listed among
his top 15 players worthy of MVP consideration. When comparing
Randle’s statistical profile to certain players who are more
frequently mentioned as MVP candidates, there appears to be some
(For what it’s worth, only five players in Knicks franchise
history have ever finished in the top five in MVP voting: Willis
Reed, Walt "Clyde" Fraizer, Bernard King, Patrick Ewing and Carmelo
Aside from having a chance to join that illustrious group,
Randle also has a legitimate shot at becoming the first Knick to
win Most Improved Player.
Over his first five seasons in the NBA (311 games), Randle made
a grand total of 104 three-pointers. Through New York's first 60
games this season, he's knocked down 132 trifectas. He had dished
out double-digit assists in a single game six times in his career
coming into this season. Randle has seven such games in
"One of the best one-season turnarounds I have ever seen,"
Knicks announcer Mike Breen said of Randle's
current campaign, noting how the powerful power forward "has
improved in every facet of the game."
During a national TV broadcast in mid-April, Jeff Van Gundy declared Randle
is "definitely the most improved player in the league," adding that
he deserves MVP consideration too.
However, Randle has made it clear that he'll judge this season
not by the number of points or boards he tallies, but rather the
number of wins and losses his team compiles. In an article he authored for The
Players Tribune in early March, Randle explained that his "main
goal" was making sure the Knicks scale the standings. Randle wrote
that taking a significant step forward in 2020-21 wasn't contingent
upon posting impressive individual stats, but rather "about this
entire Knicks team finding its best self."
Julius Randle is playing the best basketball of his life. Not
coincidentally, the Knicks are on pace to finish a season with a
winning percentage north of 55% for only the second time this
If you are wondering if New Yorkers are aware and appreciative
of the importance of Randle's contributions—listen to the raucous
"M-V-P" chants that rain down from the rafters every time he steps
to the free-throw line inside Madison Square Garden.