Julius Randle’s ability to play the ball is the biggest question for the Knicks

The Knicks think they’ve answered their grammar dilemma With the addition of Galen Bronson.

The team leader Leon Rose imprisoned long-range building block RJ Barrett. The front office has found a way Keep Defensive Anchor Mitchell Robinson.

All three players are significant pieces as the Knicks look to climb their way to the rugged Eastern Conference in the coming years. Where that leaves Julius Randle – their leading scorer, and distributor for the past three seasons – is uncertain.

Randle, 27, remains one of their highest priced and most talented players. He owes $23.7 million this season and has averaged 21.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 207 games for the Knicks. The physical striker was the cornerstone of their achievement in the 2020-21 season — when he was the NBA’s Most Improved Player, was the NBA’s second-team pick, and led the Knicks to their first post-season berth since 2013.

But the sculpted 6-foot-8, 250-pound Randle has always been at his best with the ball in his hands, and now those numbers are less frequent, especially with the addition of Bronson. This will mean fewer isolates for Randle, and more subsequent deployments and instant shoots. Less chances for him to start the crime. He will need to adapt, adapt and be open to change. It can make the game easier for him, unlocking things that weren’t there before. Less game industry responsibilities may not hold back Randle, as long as he buys into his turn to change.

Julius Randle will play more than the ball this season.
Julius Randle will play more than the ball this season.
Getty Images

Let’s not forget that last season was forgotten for Randall. He fired just 41.1 percent from the field, his lowest number since his rookie season with the Lakers, and made just 30.8 percent of his 3-point attempts. His assists dropped from 6.0 to 5.1, but his turnover remained high, at 3.4 per game. A lot of it happened without a real guard on the roster, due to injuries to Kemba Walker and Derek Rose.

He was sometimes booed, whose struggles exemplified the dismal Knicks campaign 37-45. He often seemed unhappy, losing his temper on a few occasions.

The most famous incident occurred in early January. Randall lashed out at the criticism coming his way. “Really don’t give what anyone says, to be honest,” he said at the time. In the next match, he gave a thumbs up to the fans. When Randall was asked what the purpose of this was, he replied, “To close the speech.”

Julius Randle
Julius Randle
Jason Szenes

Randall is entering this season in a very different situation than he was a year ago. This time last September, Randle had secured a four-year contract extension worth $117 million. He was the face of the Knicks, the player’s fans believed to have broken through as one of the sport’s best strikers. He would lead the Knicks’ renaissance under coach Tom Tebodeau. His “New York, we’re here!” Shouting to the fans became a rallying cry that was made into T-shirts and headgear.

Now questions surround him. Can he restore the shape of all the stars? Can he thrive alongside a goalkeeper in control of the ball? Is his future elsewhere? Does he even want to be Nick for a long time?

As training camp kicks off on Tuesday, there will be interest on the big new addition at the base. Barrett has a new contract and the stress that comes with it. Thibodeau could face some heat if this season mirrors last year.

But no one will be under the microscope like Randall. Knicks fans have seen him at his best and also his worst. But now they are likely to see a different Randle. It is a mystery how that will turn out. Boot camp should start with some early clues.

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