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NYK 101 with Professor Miranda: Julius Randle leveling up, Randle v. Melo & adieu to Frank and Knox

A MOOC for non-mooks.

Minnesota Timberwolves v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to NYK 101, a new weekly feature that will feature one statement, one question and one suggestion. It’s designed to be a sweet little truffle of content in the midst of our runaway lives, so let’s get chomping!

STATEMENT: If Julius Randle makes the All-Star team, he’ll be the most impressive Knick All-Star by the numbers in 30 years.

In 1996, Mets’ catcher Todd Hundley’s 41st home run set the team’s single-season record and a new MLB mark for homers by a catcher in a season.

Super Todd’s feat was easily lost to history, what with the late ‘90s PEDs warping of statistical benchmarks about to explode and with the Mets acquiring the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, Mike Piazza, two years later. But Hundley’s heroics hold a place in the hearts of the hardcores who sat through years of Ryan Thompson and Joe Orsulak.

The NBA’s rule changes this century have inflated a lot of statistical accomplishments, too. But we make what we can from the lives and times we’re allotted, and speaking of a lotta, Julius Randle has been a whole lotta accomplishments this year. One that’s out of his control is whether he’s named as an All-Star reserve, which will be announced later today. Fingers, toes and various appendages crossed.

Randle is averaging 23.2 points, 11 rebounds and 5.5 assists this year, on a 50/40/80 slash line. Add those counting stats and you get 39.7, which is so close to 40 (and Hundley’s 41) I’m gonna round it up. By that shortsighted shorthand, Randle would be the Knicks’ most impressive statistical All-Star in 30 years — in 1991, Patrick Ewing put up 26.6., 11.2 and 3 (40.8). In the clip below you may notice a young Clipper forward who averaged 20 a game that year for L.A. He wore #54. It’ll come to you.

Comparing Randle’s numbers this year to every other New York All-Star for 30 years took me to an unexpected question.

QUESTION: Is Randle’s performance this year better than any of what we saw from Carmelo Anthony as a Knick?

Before you bug, hear me out.

Carmelo is the greatest scorer I have ever seen on the Knicks. Post-ups, face-ups, spot-ups, pull-ups, off the dribble, off the catch, in the midrange, behind the arc — he could do it all. Randle’s repertoire is the envy of many, but even he doesn’t match up with Melo there. However, Randle is doing it all for the Knicks. He leads the team in minutes, points, shots taken, shots made, 3Ps, 3PA, 3P%, FTs, FTAs, defensive rebounds, total rebounds and assists. And he’s also defending well, certainly weller than Carmelo usually did.

Walt Frazier and half the commenters here spent years lamenting Anthony not sacrificing some scoring in order to do more for the team in other areas. To that point: I was surprised to see Randle only has one triple-double in 95 games for the Knicks. Know how many Melo had in 412 games here? One. Know how many he’s had in 739 games for every other team he’s played with? One.

I come not to bury Carmelo, but to praise Randle. Any Knick who finds himself being discussed as above Anthony and shoulder-to-shoulder with prime Patrick Ewing is really someone special.

SUGGESTION: The Knicks should trade Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina for whatever they can get.

This take has nothing to do with pragmatism and everything to do with loving yourself and the other person enough to let go.

In the past month, Knox has played just 42 minutes and put up eight DNPs. Ntilikina has played 42 minutes all year and sat the last 10 games he was eligible to play (not to mention missing another 17 due to injury and Covid protocol). As pleasantly surprising as the Knicks have been this year, they’re not exactly a Murderer’s Row. There’ve been plenty of nights the backcourt has stunk, yet no Frank. Since Mitchell Robinson fractured his hand, the Knicks have experimented some with Randle at the 5, opening up room at the 4, Knox’s natural position. Obi Toppin has averaged a hair under 12 minutes post-Mitch’s injury, same as he did before the injury, so it’s not like he’s gotten the chance to do more. And yet, still no Knox. The team won’t send him or Ntilikina to the G-League. What’s a girl to do?

I’m hopeful and open to the possibility that with Johnnie Bryant and other new people in place, the Knicks will see development in their youngsters. I’m also aware that this franchise has for the better part of this century had a number of youngsters come in, play well their rookie years, then stagnate or regress. Frank and Knox were both projects. Projects need to earn playing time, but also sometimes people need to fail to learn what it takes to succeed and earn opportunity. I wasn’t gung-ho about either when they were drafted, but I don’t think the organization has ever looked like it has a handle on how best to develop them.

At this point I’d take a couple of seconds or even a flier on someone else’s disappointing young player for Ntilikina and Knox. Unless the Knicks suffer a devastating injury — or three — it just doesn’t look like the current regime has any use for them. And that’s fair. But it’s also sad. I hope they find a home where they get a chance to play.

That’s all for this week. See you next class!