Time To Be Concerned With Julius Randle’s Slow Start For Knicks?

Julius Randle, New York Knicks, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

The New York Knicks have had a bumpy road thus far in the 2021-22 NBA season. They are 8-7, which is an improvement over where they were at this point in time during the 2020-21 season, but if you take a look at social media, the sky is falling for some Knicks fans.

Yes, they have suffered some inexcusable losses, such as being defeated by the Orlando Magic not once, but twice at Madison Square Garden. In what is shaping up to be an extremely competitive Eastern Conference, losses like that will come back to bite a team.

One of the players that have been shouldering a lot of the blame has been Julius Randle. Randle has not been able to replicate the same level of success that he had last season when he won the Most Improved Player of the Year award.

While there are some people ready to write Randle off, it is too early for that. Yes, the numbers aren’t great thus far this season, but there has to be some patience shown. He is still adjusting to a new role, as the starting five does not have the same luxury as the second unit in terms of chemistry and cohesion.

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The Knicks’ second unit has more than half a season and one playoff series worth of time playing together. All six players from last season’s bench mob are back for this season and youngsters Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin have taken that next step with a full offseason.

The starting five is adjusting to two new players in Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. It is a major adjustment defensively, as they are not as tenacious on that end of the court as the players they are replacing in Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock. Walker and Fournier are more offensive-minded, which in turn causes some adjustments to be made on Julius Randle’s part.

Randle has had some lackadaisical performances thus far, which can be frustrating when you know he is capable of more. But, Tom Thibodeau and his staff have to help move the process along as well.

For example, Randle is not being as efficient with the ball this season despite having the added offensive help. Randle’s shooting percentages are down across the board, as pointed out by Tommy Beer on Twitter.

Julius Randle is spending way too much time on the perimeter despite having the size and athleticism to bully people in the paint and score at the rim. As Beer points out, Randle has seen a significant increase in his 3-point attempts, but his efficiency has waned.

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He has also not been involved as much as a playmaker. Despite having better offensive weapons around him, Randle has seen his assists drop as well, while his 3-point attempts have increased.

Part of this is scheming. With the center position almost always being played by a non-shooter occupying the dunk spot, Julius Randle is placed on the perimeter more. Last season, he had the ball in his hands more as the sole facilitator of the offense. This season, the starting five has four guys capable of handling the ball and initiating some offense.

While the offensive numbers are what people are looking at, the biggest issue with Randle and the starting five is the defense. Last season, even when the team had an off night offensively, they could rely on the defense to keep them in the game.

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While there have been some disappointing performances, it is not yet time to be concerned or go into panic mode. There are certainly some things to iron out, but the Knicks are only 15 games into the season. They were under the .500 mark 52 games into last season before things finally began to click the final five weeks of the season.

Hopefully, they can get it together sooner than that this season, but it goes to show that patience will eventually pay off.