The New York Knicks came into this season with absolutely no hope, as they were even on the receiving end of a joke in a recent Pixar movie called “Soul.” They were the universal laughing stock of the league, as many people had them finishing with the worst record in the league.
Flash forward to today, and they are entering the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, as they’ll be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2013. Julius Randle, who many people thought would eventually be moved during the season, led the way for New York with averages of 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game.
On the surface of things, those are excellent numbers, as it moved the needle enough for people to mention him in the MVP conversation, given how the Knicks came out and surprised people this season. However, his 3-point shooting significantly improved as well, as he is averaging 41.1 percent shooting on threes on 5.5 attempts a game.
His playmaking has improved significantly as well, as he nearly doubled his previous career-high in assists per game this season. Julius Randle is atop the league in touches and passes per game, as he’s brought the absolute best out of guys like R.J. Barrett, Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, and Reggie Bullock, especially from behind the arc.
Most Improved Award
When you look at the Most Improved Player Award, it has consistently gone to first-time All-Stars, as those players made the leap from being a great role player to a potential cornerstone piece.
In his second season in New York, Julius Randle has established himself as just that, proving that not only can he score at a high level, but he can shoot, rebound, and pass the ball while maintaining high energy levels on the defensive side of the ball. If there was a Most Improved Team Award in the NBA, then the Knicks would fit that category as well, and none of that would’ve been possible without Randle seizing this opportunity and grabbing the bull by its horns.
Julius Randle was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers but broke his leg during his first-ever NBA game, which compromised his entire rookie season, and then was squeezed out of LA upon LeBron James’ arrival, as he ultimately ended up with the New Orleans Pelicans. Randle performed well off the bench in his lone season with the Pelicans, but it was clear that there was no long-term future with him there, which led him to sign with the Knicks as an afterthought after they missed out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
He could’ve accepted the fact that he was no better than a stat padder on a bad team or a good role player on a good team, but instead, he elevated his game under Tom Thibodeau and grinds out each and every minute he’s out there on the floor, which is no small feat considering the fact that he leads the league in minutes per game. Julius Randle is the runaway Most Improved Player Award winner this season; now the question will become can he elevate his game even further to take home the MVP Award.
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