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Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Randle’s case for an All-NBA spot is becoming harder to ignore with the New York Knicks flying up the Eastern Conference standings.

The conversation surrounding Julius Randle has been a rollercoaster for the last year. During the offseason, fans wondered if the New York Knicks would be better off shipping him elsewhere. But quickly after the start of the season, Randle vaulted himself into All-Star territory.

As it stands, he is the overwhelming favorite to win Most Improved Player, potentially joining the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, and Paul George. Now, it’s time to start making his case for an All-NBA team.

All-Star appearances are nice, but an All-NBA nod is an honor reserved for the truly elite players in the league. Randle deserves to be among that group.

Randle, 26, was recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 35.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 2.0 steals in four wins. Two of those monster performances came against another potential All-NBA player in Zion Williamson.

The seventh-year forward is putting up historic stats that have him rubbing elbows with an all-time great like Larry Bird and the current MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic.

We are not ready to throw Randle into the MVP conversation with Jokic, but he is right up there with any forward in the league for All-NBA honors.

In all likelihood, two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to end up on the first team. Either LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard will take the other forward spot on the first team while the other drops.

The Knicks have a legitimate chance to land the four seed in the Eastern Conference. If that happens, Randle is an absolute lock to make an All-NBA team and he would have a strong argument for second team honors.

Williamson, Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Jaylen Brown, and Paul George are all guys who have bonafide All-NBA cases, but no one on this list has done more for their team than Randle this season.

Randle is the best player on a team where his second star is a 20-year-old. This isn’t meant as a knock on RJ Barrett, who is making major strides this season, but Randle is the guy the Knicks truly lean on. It’s also worth noting that Randle leads the league in minutes per game and total minutes played this season.

As for how he feels about potentially making an All-NBA team or being named Most Improved Player, Randle is still taking the “team-first” approach.

“As far as all the other stuff, I say winning takes care of that,” Randle told reporters after shootaround on Tuesday. “Everybody gets recognized on a higher level when we’re winning so we just got to keep winning. That’s really what we’re focused on as a team.”

Randle did go onto say that winning MIP and getting recognition from the league is an honor, but the focus is on winning games first and foremost.

“Like I said, when you’re winning games, the team is doing well, as individuals, everybody is recognized on a high level.”

Head coach Tom Thibodeau and Randle have been a perfect match for one another. Thibs was happy to hear Randle is keeping his eye on the ball when it comes to winning.

“That’s what you want from your best players and he set the tone from the start,” Thibodeau said in his pregame Zoom. “…Obviously, his numbers speak for themselves and he just had an incredible week, but the most important thing is the team winning, also bringing out the best in his teammates and he’s doing it in every different aspect of the game.”

The Knicks are having fun as they continue to shake things up in the Eastern Conference. Make no mistake, Julius Randle is the engine that makes this team go.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.