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2019-20 Knicks Season Preview: Julius Randle

Can he go from good to VERY good?

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re anything like me you know who Julius Randle is and you’re pretty sure he’s stronger than you, but what else is there to know about this guy? And how will he fit in with this year’s Knicks?

Let’s talk about it.

What’s his full name?

Julius Deion Randle. JDR for short. That’s easy to remember because you can’t spell Dr. J without JDR, and Julius Randle is the most electrifying talent this league has seen since the good doctor laced ’em up.

That’s wrong on like 16 different levels, but OK. How old is he?

He’s 24. He’ll turn 25 on Nov. 29.

Does that make him a Libra?

No, and you know this because you’re a Libra and your birthday is Sept. 29.

Yeah but 29 is 29. Same number. Isn’t that how this works?

No. He’s a Sagittarius.

Cool, what does that mean?

I don’t know. I’m not into horoscopes. The important thing to note here is that he’s young, fresh, and green. There’s still room for improvement!

Yeah, but he’s 25, not 19. He’s pretty much Dunzo Washington, imho.

That’s stupid. Take a look at these stats, broski:

Offensive Overview for Julius Randle

What am I looking at?

You’re looking at an offensive snapshot of Julius Randle’s career, courtesy of our good friends over at Cleaning the Glass. The orange/blue numbers represent percentile rank at that position (so for JDR it would be a big – he’s a big, by the way. He’s going to play power forward and maybe a little center).

Hold on a second. His primary position is an area of GREAT debate. Almost everything you read about this guy says he should play center. He played center 70 percent of the time last year for the Pelicans. How can you say he’s not a center?

I didn’t say he’s not a center, but the Knicks have Mitchell Robinson. Mitchell Robinson is the center.

Will JDR play some center? Sure. But I think you’re looking at a 70/30 split in favor of power forward. The minutes just aren’t there for him.

Hmm. That kinda sucks, but I hear you.

Yeah, it’s not ideal.

What were you saying about those numbers you posted up there, though?

Right. I was talking about JDR’s development. Look at the Points Per Shot Attempt (PSA) column. Look at the, uhh, Assist Percentage (AST%) column. Notice how they’ve gone up over time? Sorta?

They’re not exactly rocketing skywards.

Fair enough, but last year was strange. Do you know what happened to JDR last year?

Stop calling him JDR.

Answer the question.

You mean that whole Anthony Davis thing?

Yeah, I mean that whole Anthony Davis thing. The entire roster was caught up in trade rumors all season long. It was bad. It completely sunk the Lakers and it absolutely affected the Pelicans.

BUT EVEN GIVEN THAT, it’s not like he stunk up the joint. He scored with above-average efficiency while carrying a huge offensive load. Take a look at that Usage Rate! The Knicks need guys who know how to score, and Julius Randle knows how to score.

Yeah, but you said he wasn’t done growing as a player. I thought that’s what we were talking about here.

All I’m saying is the dude’s 25 and that’s a good thing when we’re talking about Knicks free agents. Historically they’ve been over the hill and WAY past their prime. There’s a legitimate chance that Julius Randle could IMPROVE during this contract. That’s something that’s good, even if it’s not a guaranteed proposition.

Fine. What else you got?

Let’s take a look at some basic-ass counting stats so we can contextualize him a little better.

Basic Stats for Julius Randle

I’d like to pick a few things out of this list, starting with the aforementioned vanilla-ass box score shit. Last year he averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists.

Here’s a list of guys 6’9” or taller (he’s 6’9”, which is extremely nice) who have averaged at least 21, 8, and 3 in their age-24 season, courtesy of our old friends over at Basketball-Reference:

A List Full of Legends

So Julius Randle is basically as good as Shaq?

No, but he’s done some things that put him in lofty company — albeit toward the bottom of the list if you sort by win shares, which is a fake stat for bums and losers.

Most of the guys on this list play(ed) killer defense, which Randle doesn’t... but not all of them! And if you’re looking for positive offensive correlation to some of the greats, he has the third highest TS% on this list, trailing only Giannis and Kareem. That’s pretty sweet!

Lists like these are not the be-all, end-all when it comes to comps. We know this. But I’d like to tie this back to Julius Randle’s potential for GROWTH!

Like I already said a bunch of times, Randle was 24 last year. If you take a look at this list, a good number of those gentlemen went on to have more productive seasons later on in their careers, no matter what stat you look at. Seriously, take your pick! Win shares? VORP? PER? They all paint the same picture.

Didn’t you say win shares are for bums and losers?

I did say that, but that’s mostly because bums and losers misuse them. FOR INSTANCE, I’ve seen more than one NBA Twitter personality compare players from different eras using VORP, and it drives me nuts. Rudy Gobert is not better than or equal to Hakeem Olajuwon because of VORP. That’s bullshit and I hate you if you say something like that.

HOWEVER, when you group a bunch of those all-in-one stats together and see how they rise or fall within the scope of a single player’s career, and they all paint the same picture (in this case that picture being increased production) that definitely says something.

Shaq bested his age-24 season about a bajillion times according to all those stats. Ditto Chris Webber. Ditto Bob Lanier. Ditto Larry Bird. Ditto Kevin Garnett.

Pretty much the only guys on that list who didn’t go on to outperform their age-24 seasons on a consistent basis were DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin, both of whom suffered career-altering injuries.

ALL THAT IS TO SAY, if you’ve put together the kind of statistical output that Julius Randle has at Julius Randle’s age, there’s a good chance you’re going to outperform that baseline consistently — at least according to historical precedent. There’s a decent chance you won’t, especially if you’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and you put up stat lines that were preposterously good to begin with, but to assume that a guy is done growing as a player at 25 years old is not necessarily wise, especially if it’s a player like Randle.

So what’s gonna happen this year, you VORP-loving mega nerd?

Well, we know he’s got a spot in the starting lineup. He’s the only guy the Knicks gave multiple guaranteed years to this offseason, and he’s easily the most accomplished player on the team. So expect him to have another high usage rate and to be the Knicks’ top offensive option on most nights.

Is he a much better person than Kristaps Porzingis?

Yes, obviously. Everyone has only good things to say about Julius Randle. PLUS (and this is a MASSIVE plus) he wears giant chains around his torso when he works out.

Julius Randle Wearing Giant Chains

I’ve never ONCE seen KP wear giant chains around his torso when he works out.

This is How KP Works Out
Courtesy of My Slowly Decaying Mental State

I feel like you’ve thrown a bunch of numbers at us, but what does this guy actually look like when he plays basketball? He’s a power forward and a center and he scores efficiently. Cool. But what about defense?

Our good friend Dallas wrote an incredibly detailed piece on his defense. I’m not going to waste any time talking about it. Go read it.

Ok, then talk some more about his offense. Is he a shooter? A slasher? How’s his finishing? His court vision? Can he actually set a screen? What’s his roll game like? Is he a lob threat? A vertical spacer?

Anything else?

No, I think that’s it.

Cool. If you’re asking me, which you implicitly are by reading this, I’d say Randle would be best described as a RUMBLER. To get more specific, I’d say he rumbles into the lane.

Randle has size. He has girth. He has big meaty muscles and he knows how to use them to carve out space for all kinds of flips, floaters, and crafty layups at weird angles. Don’t expect him to dunk much. He’s a below-the-rim dude in half-court sets. He doesn’t have the hops to consistently yam it in a crowd.

Transition is another story, though. With a full head of steam, Randle can throw down some stanky rim-rattlers.

So yeah, he’s good at rumbling to the rim, frequently from the top of the key in isolation sets, but there’s a little too much bumbling and stumbling for my liking. He’s had a high turnover rate every year he’s been in the league, consistently ranking in the bottom quarter of bigs in that statistic.

Part of the problem is that he gets tunnel vision. If you look at his assist rates, they’re actually outstanding, but they’re not as astounding as they could be when you factor in his usage rate. A snapshot: last year he was in the 95th percentile in usage rate (these numbers are all for bigs) and the 86th percentile in assist rate, but only the 53rd percentile in assist-to-usage rate. He doesn’t pass as often as he should for someone who gets the ball as much as he does.

If you’re looking for growth on offense, this is one of two main areas you’re going to want to see it. If he wants to take the next step, he’s going to have to learn how to anticipate where the help defender is coming from and make the right read quicker. He’s capable of doing it, but he needs to improve.

What he’s never going to be is Nikola Jokic, and asking him to make advanced reads consistently is a mistake. That’s why I’d like to see his iso and post-up numbers decrease a bit (he likes to post up, too), especially as primary actions. End-of-the-shot-clock bailout ball is one thing, but much like anyone who dribbles a basketball, JDR’s significantly more effective if he can attack a scrambling defense — doubly so if he can use his size advantage on a mismatch.

The other major area you’re looking at for growth is 3-point shooting. Perhaps you’ve heard that he improved in that department last year?

I have.

Well, it’s true! He shot 34 percent from downtown, up from 23 and 27 percent the two years prior.

Thirty-four percent isn’t great, even for a big (44th percentile); but it’s a start. As of RIGHT NOW, defenses don’t respect his deep ball enough where you can use him as a floor spacer. It helps set up his drives, though, and with a little bit more polish...

Wait, could you talk more about his drives? I feel like you sorta skipped that by calling him a RUMBLER and then bailing on actual analysis.

I’m not writing a novel here. There will inevitably be plenty of things I leave out about JDR’s game. Consider this a primer.

Lame. I just want to know if he can dribble.

Fine, he’s adept at straight line drives with either hand and he likes to drive right then switch back to his left for one of his funky lil’ finishes. He’s not a point guard, though. You’re not going to see him dance out there. He will not be breaking any ankles.

Can I get back to shooting now?

Go for it.

Great. So the question is, will he improve his shot enough to where he pulls out the defense? My gut says no. First of all, he’s got a long windup, so you’ve got time to recover if you sag off of him, even if he improves his accuracy. Second of all, he does this little twisty corkscrew thing with his body at the point of release, a quirk which I can’t imagine will help with consistency.

I saw him working on his form this offseason in various Instagram videos and the like, but I’ll believe it when I see it in a game. If he doesn’t noticeably improve his form, I don’t see him improving his accuracy that much. I’m not trying to be a party pooper here, but If I had to bet money on it, I’d bet on that number regressing a bit this year. I’d bet on that party being pooped in.

I take no pleasure in this. I JUST CALL ’EM LIKE I SEE ’EM!

You want to see him pass better. You want to see him shoot better. Is there anything else you want to see out of him this year from a growth standpoint?

This is more of a coaching thing, but I’d like to see him used as the roll man more often, taking the place of some of those iso and post-up possessions we discussed a few paragraphs ago. He scored a ROBUST 1.34 points per possession as the roll man last year, good for 92nd percentile in the league, but he was only in those actions 6.7 percent of the time, adding up to a measly 1.4 possessions a game.

It makes sense that he’d perform well in those sets. If you get him rumbling downhill there’s a good chance he’ll put the ball in the basket. The more ways you can find to do that without asking him to initiate his own offense, the better, especially since he’s not a natural distributor.

Are we done now?

Yes. I think that’s it.

Oh, wait! Check out this shot chart! Isn’t that nice and modern?

The last 750 shots of JDR’s career.

It is!


Can I get a little TL;DR for the comment jockeys?

Sure thing, boss. Julius Randle is an efficient high-volume scorer who should be able to do just enough on defense to be a net positive overall. He’ll bully his way to the rim in ways that will remind you of Carmelo Anthony, and if he makes outlier-ish improvements to his 3-point shooting or playmaking he could officially be a PROBLEM on offense.

Now look into your hair-ball oracle. What do you see for Randle this year? And make sure you come in SPICY!

Here’s the spiciest take I’ve got, and it’s not particularly spicy (think Valentina yellow label): I could see Randle putting up the kind of numbers that will make him an All-Star, heavily factoring in the visibility boost that comes from playing in New York. We’ll all know he’s a little overrated, but we won’t admit it out loud, especially on Twitter. We’ll love him when he’s beasting and hate him when he’s bumbling.

In aggregate, I believe love will outnumber hate. He’ll be competent enough to help the Knicks stay in games and help the young core develop. JDR is good people and I think we’ll enjoy rooting for him.

Nobody is going to call him JDR.


You’re pathetic.

Love you too, me.

Aww. Same, tbh.

/kisses self in mirror A-Rod style.