Julius Randle has been one of the revelations for the Knicks this season. Coach Thibodeau has given Randle an immense role in the offense, and Randle has rewarded him by leading the Knicks to the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have been good to start the season, and have been catching some eyes around the league by beating good teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers. Julius Randle is the best player on the Knicks: he is currently averaging 23.1 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 7.4 APG. Those are the numbers of an elite passing big man.
Julius Randle's meteoric rise begs the question: is Julius Randle an All-Star? If Julius Randle can lead the New York Knicks to a playoff seed by the time voting rolls around, then he's a prime candidate to be selected for the All-Star game. With other All-Stars like Pascal Siakam starting their season poorly, Randle could seize the moment and show that he is a star with his play, taking one of the coveted spots. Here are all the reasons that Julius Randle could be an All-Star.
Julius Randle Has Improved His Playmaking
The elephant in the room is that Julius Randle used to be a black hole on offense. The 7.4 APG are a career-high, but the most impressive fact is that this happened over the course of one season: he has never averaged more than 3.6 APG in a season before. This is a far cry from someone who was maligned as a black hole last year and finished the season with as many turnovers per game as he did assists (3.1 assists to 3.0 turnovers). While Randle still has a turnover problem (4.9 per game in 2020-21), he has clearly developed his passing to a good level for a power forward. He has more APG currently than known passing big men like Domantas Sabonis (6.4 APG) or Bam Adebayo (5.1 APG).
Tom Thibodeau made Randle into the "engine" of the team. He defined his role. Julius Randle isn't your typical magician passer like Luka Doncic; rather, he leverages his ability to score inside to kick it out to his teammates on the perimeter. Instead of trying to score all the time, Randle is focused on making the right basketball play. That means that the scoring will come naturally. He has always been good inside, but now that he's developed a passing game, he has become a more multi-dimensional player. Randle is showing what he is able to do with improved coaching and a clear leading role.
Julius Randle's Worked On Shot Creation
The New York Knicks were not good enough to play in the Orlando bubble. After months of missed basketball, players must have been itching to play. Alas, some teams were not part of it. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post talked to Randle's trainer about Randle's regimen over the offseason. These are some notable snippets from the article.
“Him not being able to play while all those other guys in the league played?” Relph says with a laugh. “That made him mad.”
Some days that meant the two would meet at a gym at 6 a.m., drilling footwork, working on Randle’s shot, 90 minutes of nonstop grind. Three or four times a week that was only the second stop on the itinerary as Randle would open his old high school gym at 5 a.m. to fire up jumpers on his own.
“We had nothing but time,” Relph says, “and he didn’t want to waste any of it. We had nine months. So I told him: ‘Let’s be an all-star. Let’s try to get you to be one of the best players in the league.’ We went back to what we used to do. Footwork, stuff to make sure he got to spots fast. Over and over.
So far, it seems like Randle's trainer has done a good job: Julius Randle looks way crisper off the dribble and has also shown better range. Randle has always been a good scorer: but he was somewhat predictable. One could almost expect him to barrel inside for a layup, and he was good at it. The improvement of his jumper and the ability to create his own shot was paramount for Randle to become a star. It diversified what he could do. Julius Randle currently shoots 34.4% from 3PT range on 4.0 attempts. If Randle can keep hitting from beyond the arc at this rate, then he doesn't really have many flaws in his game.
In this game, there are a variety of signs that show Julius Randle has worked on shooting; he pulls up off the dribble starting at 0:20, shoots a 3PT shot off the catch at 0:37, and hits his defender with a jab step before shooting a midrange jumper at 1:47. While these are highlighted plays, the fact that he feels confident to do all of those things bodes well for his future as a go-to number one option. If Randle can continue to get to his spots and score outside of the paint, then he will show himself as one of the best forwards in the league.
Will Julius Randle Be An All-Star?
If Julius Randle keeps up his form for the entire season, then there is no doubt that he deserves to be an All-Star. While he will have stiff competition from other players, he does have a few things going for him. If the Knicks are in a playoff seed, and he's still the first option on the team then he will be an All-Star player. The New York market influence cannot be ignored. On top of that, Randle is an interesting player to watch, and coaches will surely take notice of his improvement. With his level of play, he has a very good chance of making the cut and getting his first All-Star appearance.
The Knicks haven't had an All-Star selection since Kristaps Porzingis was selected during the 2017-18 season. Randle is the pulse of this New York team: someone who has worked to get where he's at combined with a coach that gives him the freedom to do everything on the offensive end. Coach Thibodeau has unlocked Randle's potential, and that potential could take him to heights that he hasn't reached yet. If the season ended right now, Randle would be in the running for Most Improved Player and an All-NBA spot. If Julius Randle can do what he's been doing on a consistent basis, then the New York Knicks may have one of the franchise's most exciting stars since Carmelo Anthony.