In December, the New York Knicks were able to compile a 9-6 record. It was very respectable outcome for a scrappy Knicks team that was able to close out 2022 with a 108-88 win over the Houston Rockets.
There were two positive takeaways for the Knicks in the final calendar month.
1) Julius Randle played like an All-Star.
One positive was the play of all-star hopeful Julius Randle. Randle averaged 28 points along with 11 rebounds but most importantly he has not missed a game yet this season. Randle has been playing like his All-Star self, the version that electrified the garden crowd in the 2020-21 season.
An eye-opening stat from Randle's season is his uptick in three-point shots. In the month of December, he took around nine per game, knocking down about three per game. The 36.8% from deep isn't great, but it’s an improvement from the 33.5% average he has for his career. Randle has knocked down 100+ three-pointers this season, he will cruise past his previous career best of 160 set in 2020-21.
New York needs Randle’s shooting as they sit middle of the pact for three-point makes per game. During his explosive All-Star season in New York, he averaged 24 points, ten rebounds, and six assists. Although the assist numbers are down due to Jalen Brunson taking over a lot of the ball-handling duties, Randle is at that 24 points, ten rebounds average on a higher effective field goal percentage this season. Julius will look to build off his stellar December in 2023, and once he gets rolling it is hard to stop him.
Julius Randle was on an absolute tear in the month of December! pic.twitter.com/22z2j3PJcA— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 2, 2023
Julius Randle caps off strong December with 35p, 12r, 6a in win vs HOU as NYK snaps 5-game losing streak. Randle hit 5 of 13 from 3 & went 12-for-16 on FTs. Solid case for Eastern Player of the Month. Entering tonight’s game, Randle was averaging 27.9p, 11.4r & 4.1 in December.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 1, 2023
2. The Knicks got to the foul line.
The other positive was how aggressive the Knicks were as a team. In December, the Knicks averaged the third most free throws per game at 26.5. This was similar to November when they averaged 25.6 which put them fourth in the NBA. In November they knocked down 21.1 of those 25.6 per game for an 82.4% clip, the fourth-best percentage.
December has seen their free throw percentage rate drop. Despite taking more foul shots, they’ve hit 20.1 per game for a percentage of 76.1. Averaging the third most attempts per game but only ranking 24th in percentage is something that will have to improve in 2023 as the seasons chugs along.
Julius Randle led the team in free throw makes (6.5) and attempts (8.6) per game. RJ Barrett (4.3/5.8) and Jalen Brunson (3.3/3.9) followed behind. The Knicks need their two most aggressive stars to improve their percentages and knock down freebies as Randle (75.2%) and Barrett (73.7%) both do not shoot a good percentage from the line. Jalen Brunson (85.1%) and Immanuel Quickley (81.8%) do a better job from the line and the two of them should look to be more aggressive going forward. Quentin Grimes (1.9/2.4/79.4%) should be able to raise his free throw rate as he’s getting healthier and working himself into the offense.
In a Knicks offense that can go cold in the halfcourt, picking up free points throughout the game is really critical. The Knicks have had instances this season where they haven't been able to hit foul shots in crunchtime and it lost them some games they should've won.
What is encouraging is that they’ve been aggressive drawing fouls. The percentage in December wasn't great, but that could move back up in January and going forward. Free throws will come, staying aggressive is what’s important.