Maybe Julius Randle shouldn’t have been carelessly thrown into trade speculation and rumors by pundits and fans alike this offseason.
Maybe the Knicks actually have something special in the 26-year-old power forward — who is considered an old, well-traveled, wily veteran based on the organization’s core of youngsters aged 23 or less.
Randle was quickly written off after the Knicks selected forward Obi Toppin out of Dayton with the No. 8 pick of the 2020 NBA Draft; an afterthought within a team that finally showed a clear direction of building through its youth.
Twenty-six? That’s practically ancient for the seven-year veteran who is now on his third team after he was a lottery pick of the Los Angeles Lakers.
But for a Knicks team that is searching for the right pieces to build on moving forward, regardless of age, Randle is making as impressive an early statement as one could.
In three games, he’s averaging 23.7 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Those are All-Star-worthy numbers if he could maintain this kind of output.
That included nine assists in the season-opener against the Pacers on a night that was ended prematurely because of foul trouble. Even more impressively, he got the best of league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night, posting 29 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in a shocking 20-point rout.
He’s seeing the floor much better in his second season with the Knicks — the first of Tom Thibodeau’s reign as head coach — and he’s taken the role of facilitator just as seriously as the role of playmaker.
“He has the ability to put it on the floor and you have to make the read at the basket,” Thibodeau said (h/t New York Post). “What are they doing? Is there two or three guys on you? If there are, hit the open man, trust the pass. When you do that the game becomes very easy.”
While Randle has grown short with the media after his names adorned the rumor mill constantly, his message is the right one for a developing, young team.
“Just make other players better.”
Given the last 20 years, Knicks fans and leadership can’t afford to be picky. If Randle is the player to help lead a resurgence at Madison Square Garden, then keep him in the center of the plans.