The New York Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks last February in part because they wanted to free up another max cap slot to make a run at two superstars in free agency.
But when the Knicks struck out on the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, forward Julius Randle suddenly became the marquee attraction.
Randle has never been the clear-cut No. 1 option in his career before, though he was certainly a productive player for the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans. But teammate Elfrid Payton and Randle himself both agree that the big man is starting to get the hang of being the go-to guy (via Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic):
“It’s totally different just because of the teammates that we had on the other team,” said Elfrid Payton, a teammate in New Orleans,. “Playing with Jrue Holiday, playing with Anthony Davis, he wasn’t necessarily the first option and now coming into this it’s totally different. He’s handled it very well. He’s taken the challenge and he’s playing well.”
“It’s been an adjustment all year,” Randle said. “I’m starting to figure it out more and more. Make sure we’re getting better as a team; my teammates are helping me figure it out. For me, it’s just getting better day in and day out. It’s an adjustment and I’m going to keep better at it. I’m going to keep working.”
The 25-year-old is averaging 17.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists in what has actually been a fairly disappointing season thus far.
Though Randle has stuffed the stat sheet, he has been vastly more inefficient while showing little improvement on the defensive end.
That said, he produced one of his best games against the Washington Wizards on Monday, scoring 35 points and shooting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Perhaps there is still time for Randle to inspire some hope for the future as he continues to process being the leading man in the Big Apple.