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Julius Randle, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving

Editorials

Julius Randle isn’t Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, but he is a top-notch consolation prize

Knicks fans, face it: you blew it. Again. This time, twice.

No city in the country compares to the sports market of New York City (sorry, LA). The bright signs in Times Square, the diversity of people and cultures, and basketball — lots of basketball. From Madison Square Garden to Rucker Park, the real fans and players appreciate the culture of basketball in New York. It’s one of the reasons Kyrie Irving came home to the Brooklyn Nets; it’s a reason Kevin Durant took his talents East.

When the New York Knicks missed out on Irving and Durant, they knew they blew it. Another year, and more strikeouts with highly-sought free agents. However, the signing of Julius Randle is a solid one and should bring some optimism to the franchise’s future.

Sure, $63 million over three years shocked many, but last year proved that Randle deserved every dime of it. Averaging career highs in points (21.4 per game) and 3s (67 for the season), the Kentucky product did damage in his fifth pro season.

While he’s no KD or Kyrie, Randle does bring young talent to the Knicks. At only 24 years old, Julius Randle could still be a couple of years away from the best basketball of his career. In a free-agency class with all-time greats, the Knicks found a hidden gem in Randle.

Simply, I love the fit all-around. Randle, despite being just 6-foot-9, has never averaged under eight boards a game for a season. As an undersized big man, his 250-pound frame and hard work make up for his height.

As RJ Barrett learns the ropes of the NBA, Randle should be the Knicks’ primary scoring option. Here’s how Randle will make it work and live up to the expectations of his rather sizable contract.

Playing with RJ Barrett: How to Share the Ball

Moving forward into the grit of the regular season, there should be faith in RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. The two want to win ball games, and their playstyles allow them to help each other do just that. Barrett, having already played with an exceptional undersized big man in Zion Williamson, understands that the ball has to move. He realizes that Randle will need touches, and that’s where I see them thriving.

Randle and Barrett should also excel due to their games complementing each other. Randle is a face-up threat who crashes the glass. Barrett is coming for everyone; in the paint or beyond the 3, the kid knows how to score. Having a second force like Barrett will make defenses have to guard more than just one player on the floor.

Growing into his role and meeting expectations, which are what exactly?

As mentioned earlier, the expectation is for Julius Randle to be the Knicks’ primary scoring option, and he likely feels that way as well after putting up over 21 points per game this past season. However, does that also mean he has to be the face of the franchise? Does it mean RJ Barrett will take TV time and reporters away from Randle? Odds are, yeah. But he has dealt with adversity before given he was there for D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young’s Lakers days.

Randle has had distractions in his life before, but now he wants to be the leader of a team. As the face of a rebuilding franchise, Randle will be looked at to keep the team focused. On the court, he will be looked at to put the ball in the bucket and play the best defense of his career, which will require major improvement on that end of the court.

Ceiling and floor for Julius Randle with the Knicks

The floor for the 2019-20 New York Knicks’ season is an all-too-familiar one: 15-20 wins and zero team chemistry displayed on the court.

However, the ceiling is far more interesting. As a fan of good basketball, it would be great for the team to jell and make the playoffs as an 8-seed, maybe even a 7-seed if things shake up in the East. Leading that team to the playoffs would be first-time All-Star Julius Randle, who could’ve very well been one last season.

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The Knicks missed out on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and the gut-wrenching blow that was given when they signed with Brooklyn will leave a deep hole for the coming years. But Madison Square Garden has a lot to be excited for; the Knicks could end up surprising many and be better than expected. I will be watching this team and am looking forward to seeing how they progress throughout the year with Julius Randle as a face of the franchise.