The New York Knicks enter the 2024 NBA Playoffs playing incredibly good basketball. OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson are both (fully) back from injuries, respectively — something that fans clamored for immediately after New York’s trade with Toronto in late December. They’ve already contributed to a significantly above-average team defense. Their leader, Jalen Brunson, is also playing at an All-NBA level, and their role players are all firing on all cylinders.

Still, the Knicks are not perfect. Specifically, there is one thing that could doom the them this postseason, and the solution is sadly already on the roster — he just won’t be able to help.

Defensively, the Knicks are a pretty complete team. There are obviously situational match-ups that are less advantageous than others (e.g., the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid), but that’s true for every team in the NBA. However, the Knicks still have a hole that wasn’t filled prior to the trade deadline, and it will probably hurt them this postseason, even if they could still advance deeper into the playoffs than they have in 20+ seasons.

Julius Randle's injury leaves the Knicks without a second scorer

Julius Randle is a scoring machine, also known as a walking bucket. In the past, he’s been the team’s leading scorer and first offensive option. However, he took a minor backseat last season, which continued to develop this season, to Brunson. Still, Randle averaged 24.2 points per game in 46 games this 2023-24. He admittedly shot a sub-par 31.1% on 3-point attempts, but he demonstrated considerable self awareness in limiting three-point attempts after the first few weeks of the year. However, this all came crashing down when he dislocated his shoulder in Miami against the Heat on January 27.

While Randle did everything in his power to rehabilitate his shoulder, his injury was ultimately deemed more serious than initially thought. In early April, the Knicks announced that after trying to rehab the injury, Randle had decided to opt for surgery after suffering a set back and would not return for any part of the remainder of the season. And therein lies the problem.

With Brunson’s tremendous ascension this season, Randle became an incredible luxury — a second option would could bully his way through the mid-range and around the rim. He could score in isolation and create his own opportunities, when necessary. And while it’s not a hard and tight rule, most championship teams require a second scorer who can create for himself. With Randle set to miss the entirety of the 2024 playoffs, the Knicks do not have that second scorer — and that is a major problem.

No Julius Randle could mean big problems for New York

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) looks at the scoreboard after missing a three-point shot
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

New York's offense hums when Jalen Brunson is playing well. But there are two key situations in which problems exist: when Brunson is on the bench and when he's not playing well.

The latter is a complicated problem. But in those moments, Brunson remains on the floor. In other words, he remains a threat even when not playing his best basketball, which is better than nothing. The former, though, is a bigger issue. Brunson boasts a 5.4 volume over replacement player (VORP). Put plainly, the Knicks score 5.4 more points per 100 possessions with Brunson on the floor. That might not sound like a lot, but it is. In fact, it's the sixth-highest VORP in the league.

VORP doesn't tell the whole story, though. With that in mind, let's take a look at the Knicks offensive rating with and without Brunson on the court. And what do you know, it's considerably different. The Knicks posted a 122.8 offensive rating with Brunson on the floor this season. Comparatively, they only put up a 109.2 rating with him off.

Granted, the following comparison looks at the Knicks with/without their best player versus other team teams' aggregate  performance; however, if Brunson played 48 minutes per game (and scaled his output). the Knicks would post the second-best offensive rating in the NBA. Conversely, their offensive rating without him would qualify for worst in the league.

Long story short, the Knicks need Brunson. That much is common knowledge in the tri-state area, and beyond. But given that no one can play 48 minutes per game for an entire play-off run (right?), the Knicks need other players to step up. Unfortunately, the ideal contributor will be in street clothes for the entirety of the post-season. And it's unfortunate given how well New York has played of late. They could still shock the world — it's just far less likely without Randle.