What Can Julius Randle Bring the Knicks Moving Forward?
For Julius Randle, signed to be the centerpiece of this Knicks team, the most recent period has been his most productive so far.
"Just comfortable, man, comfortable," Randle told reporters at practice last week about how he sees that evolution. "Just taking what the defense gives me. Playing hard. Just trying to be efficient."
His February numbers certainly reflect that. In six games this month, he's shooting an even 50 percent from the floor, good for raw numbers of 21.8 points and 12 rebounds per game.
These are closer to the numbers the Knicks envisioned last summer, when they acquired Randle on a two-year deal with a third-year option following what was a similar season, in a secondary role, with the New Orleans Pelicans last season.
What's fascinating about his time with the Knicks is that the overall production has remained very similar to whar he put up in New Orleans. Sure, Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis were primary scorers, but his usage rate with the Pelicans was 27.8, a tick higher than his 27.5 with the Knicks. He's served as a point forward at times, but his 16.4 assist percentage with the Knicks isn't dramatically different than his 15.8 in New Orleans last year.
Across the board, what Randle is now is, repeatedly, what he'd been in New Orleans.
Whether that is a problem or a reward depends on your point of view, just as it may reflect nothing about Randle's value, but rather the need to simply surround him with more talent.
Even so, to think of Randle as some finished product at 25 feels like it is selling him short. He's been asked to weather a lot in New York, and maintaining his level of production this season despite all that seems like progress, not status quo.
It could be as simple as his resolute focus on the immediate task ahead.
"We're going to come back from the break refreshed, and just take it a game at a time," Randle said.
That's what he's done. He'll need to be that primary scorer for a team that doesn't have Marcus Morris Sr., whose most significant young pieces are still learning how to do it.
But Julius Randle is here, and he knows why he's here, and he's producing in that role. Whatever happens next, he's proven that already.