julius randle knicks
Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t sleep on Julius Randle heading into the 2021-22 season. The New York Knicks are still his team after the offseason moves.

Danny Small

Believe it or not, the New York Knicks had a quiet media day on Monday. The big hoopla in the city revolves around the Brooklyn Nets — and Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status — for a change. Knicks media day was much more low-key.

The biggest storyline to come out of Knicks media day was simply Kemba Walker. The Knicks rolled out the red carpet for Kemba as Derrick Rose announced Walker would be the unquestioned starting point guard.

With the Nets diverting attention and Knicks fans fawning over “Mr. New York” — otherwise known as Kemba Walker — it’s not surprising to see Julius Randle flying under the radar.

He shouldn’t, though.

Walker may have the longer and more impressive resumé at this point in his career, but Randle is the better player. After all, no one is named to an All-NBA Second Team by accident. Randle was one of the four best forwards in The Association in 2021.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau referred to Randle as New York’s “engine” early and often last year. That won’t change just because the Knicks acquired Walker and Evan Fournier in the offseason.

Yes, the front office’s grand plan for a championship probably involves trading for a superstar who would make Randle the de facto No. 2.

But the Knicks are not there yet. There are question marks surrounding Walker’s health and ability to bounce back from his down 2020-21 campaign. Is it possible for Kemba to assert himself and take over as the lead dog? Sure, but we are not at that point yet.

Rather than take away from Randle’s shine, the addition of Walker and Fournier should help him shine even brighter.

Playoff Struggles

Randle was atrocious in the playoffs. He disappeared in the biggest moment of his NBA career, but this isn’t breaking news. Anyone who watched the Knicks fall to the Atlanta Hawks in five games knows this — even Randle. He says he “overcomplicated” the series.

“I could have made the game more simple,” Randle later added. “Part of that was me being me, putting a lot on my shoulders. Not making the moment bigger than what it was but just me wanting to be great in that moment. So I just feel like it was overcomplicated but I’m excited to get back there this season.”

How can Randle simplify things for his next appearance in the playoffs? Having better teammates is a start. Walker and Fournier are massive improvements over Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock. Walker is leaps and bounds better than Payton while Fournier’s ability to create and hit shots off of screens makes him far more valuable than Bullock.

Adding these two and getting a healthy Mitchell Robinson will open up acres of space for Randle to operate. The same can be said of RJ Barrett, who still holds a high place in this Knicks hierarchy. Barrett reflected on the different kinds of looks he and Randle might be seeing this year.

“I actually saw something on Twitter,” Barrett explained. “It was like ‘RJ Barrett going into the lane this year.’ It was somebody in a field and they were just by themselves wide open.”

For Randle and Barrett, the additions of Walker and Fournier will open up a ton of space in the lane. It also helps that all four guys are capable of knocking down catch-and-shoot threes.

Randle and Barrett are still the core pieces on the Knicks. That doesn’t change because of a few offseason additions. In fact, it should turn the Knicks into a more efficient, well-oiled machine on offense.