DAR Sports: The Fate Of Julius Randle

 By Jeff Axel

The year is 2014 and the draft class is one of the most anticipated of all time. The Lakers take the 7th pick and their eyes are fixated on a prospect that had showed flashes of greatness leading up to this, but now stakes are higher. Julius Randle was selected with that pick and instantly, all the thoughts of Lakers greatness  was thrown at his feet. Would he live up to hype? Opening night arrives. It was finally his chance to showcase himself on national TV. Within 14 minutes played, the worst thing imaginable happens. Julius Randle breaks his leg and misses the rest of the season. For a rookie starting out, that type of injury can break you down and destroy your career. For Randle, it seemed to be a challenge that he was capable of meeting. 

Randle showed his resilience and came back the next season averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds. His next few seasons in LA showed promise, though he didn't seem to completely buy in on defense. Considering how his career started, one would say Randle came a long way from that unfortunate opening night. Randle is no stranger to adversity and he is currently showcasing what he's capable of with the New York Knicks, while averaging career highs all around the board. His stats of 22.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 6.0 APG showcase his growth and prove that he’s focused on taking another level as a player. The Knicks are surprisingly in the playoff mix early on this season and Randle is the clear number one option for them, though they also have other guys who can contribute at a high level for them. 

 


Randle is one of two players averaging the numbers he is right now (23/11/6 being the marker) alongside arguably the best center in the league, Nikola Jokic. It’s been fun to watch his development from a energy double double hustle guy with an aggressive bull in a china shop style offense to a borderline triple double threat with explosive finishes and a consistent mid range jumper. Some people might feel it’s a fluke but Randle at 27 is entering the prime of his career and has improved his game consisistently. Whether the Knicks want to keep him in the future or not, he looks like a franchise player in the frontcourt. He's been on the rise for some time now however. 

The first sign of this high level of play was in 2018-19 as a 3rd option for the New Orleans Pelicans. He was part of a trio with Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis that averaged 20 points a game each (despite this being a strange season for AD in NOLA), as Randle averaged a then career high 21.4 PPG and 34% 3PT shooting. That production netted him a 3 year, $60 million deal with the knicks. The floor spacing in that first season was terrible as Randle looked like the only competent player on a 21 win team. He averaged 20 and 10 on 46% from the field. Despite the numbers, it hasn't truly brought his teams a winning season yet, and one would hope that could change this season, but who knows. The Knicks got off to a solid start this season but adversity has hit Randle again, as his team is on a 3 game losing streak. The question remains if he’ll sustain this level of play over the course of 72 games. With that question also comes another question: Do the Knicks sell on Julius Randle if they don't reverse things around?

One could present compelling answers for keeping Randle and trading him off, but the truth lies in what you can get for him. Trades are skewed these days and rarely does a team that is selling get back equal value, but with Randle, it's an interesting situation. If he plays at a borderline All-NBA level pace, he might be able to net you a few first round picks and perhaps a solid veteran player in exchange. His versatile high energy level of play could potentially put a playoff or potential playoff team over the top. On the other hand, the Knicks have been in rebuilding mode since 2015, and Julius Randle gives the Knicks their first legitimate veteran who could become a star since a disgruntled Kristaps Portzingis.

Personally, I hope that Thibs doesn’t play Randle 40 minutes per game and burn him out to where his production suffers. It’s impressive that Randle scores so efficiently and dishes out 6 assists per game because a majority of his team is limited in shooting. Is Julius Randle a number 1 option for a future playoff team? Or is he playing well enough to get traded to a contender this season? Time will tell. 

-Axel

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