The postseason didn’t go as planned for Julius Randle and the New York “Kentucky” Knicks, but his seventh year in the NBA was hardly a failure.
In fact, it was quite the opposite.
The NBA recently announced that Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named the 2020-21 Most Valuable Player after posting absolutely bonkers figures of 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per contest for the third-best team in the Western Conference. But looking down the ballot, a familiar name received a significant amount of votes: Mr. Randle.
He’s already added the Most Improved Player Award to his 2020-21 season resume and now Randle can say that he was a top 10 MVP candidate, as well. According to the NBA’s voting breakdown, the former Kentucky Wildcat finished in eighth place for the league’s top player from the 2020-21 regular season with 20 total points. Randle received one third-place vote (worth five points apiece), two fourth-place votes (worth three points apiece), and nine fifth-place votes (worth one point apiece).
Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on a shooting split of 45.6/41.1/81.1 in 71 games played out of a possible 72 while leading the entire NBA in minutes played. He was also named an All-Star for the first time in his professional career.
Here’s a full breakdown of the MVP votes:
Yup, that’s right. Julius Randle received more MVP votes than LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Ben Simmons, Russell Westbrook, and Rudy Gobert. Outside of Simmons, the rest of that group are all but guaranteed spots in the Hall of Fame one day.
While Randle is a major longshot to make the HOF himself one day, this sure is a decent start. The 26-year old is in position to earn a hefty pay bump this offseason and the Knicks front office would surely like to keep around the player that led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season.
But now it’s time to learn from his mistakes. Randle and the Knicks lost in five games to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs as Randle was suffocated by a constantly collapsing Hawks defense. He’s proven he can be a dominating force in the regular season, but it’s the postseason where respect is earned. With assistant coach Kenny Payne by his side, there’s no reason to believe Randle can’t make another leap going forward.