Knicksmania is gripping New York as the team — for the first time in entirely too long — is both winning games now and has seemed to build a culture and foundation that can sustain this and more for years.
Julius Randle is at the heart of that — he has carried the Knicks offense this season with an expanded game that includes 42.1% shooting from three, and improved passing and playmaking — scoring 24.1 points and pulling down 10.4 rebounds a game. Randle is in the conversation for an All-NBA forward spot.
How out of control has the hype gotten? Here is Knicks legend Charles Oakley speaking while on SiriusXM NBA Radio (hat tip Marc Berman at The New York Post):
“I think [Randle is] a better version of Zion Williamson to me. Because he can do more. Zion is just hype in the league. But in the playoffs, he’ll be just like the Greek Freak. They’ll have the wall for you. First of all, Zion Williamson got to get the playoffs.”
To be fair to Oakley, there are two ways to look at this.
Does Randle have a more rounded game than Zion today? Sure, if that’s your measure. Both have bully-ball as the baseline of their game, both now have the ball in their hands and serve as their team’s primary shot creators off the dribble, and both have proved adept at that. Randle has developed a midrange and three-point shot that Zion does not have right now, and Randle is a better defender.
Would any GM/president in the league — including Leon Rose — take Randle over Zion? Not a chance.
First off, Randle is 26, in his seventh season, and needed all that time to develop into the player he is today. Zion is 20 and just scratching the surface of his talents. If your argument is “all Zion does is drive to the rim and dunk” you are missing the point — he is insanely efficient at that (much more so than Randle). Shots at the rim are the most efficient shots in the game, and Zion is elite already at both getting them and making them, there is no reason to change that (even as he starts to develop other parts of his game).
Overall, Randle has a 57.3 true shooting percentage this season, right about the league average, but Zion is at an insane 65.2. Are teams going to wall off Zion in the playoffs? We’ll see down the line (but not this year), and we’ll see how he handles it. Can Randle handle the pressure of being the primary shot creator in a playoff series? We will find out starting in a few weeks.
The Knicks hype train is running full steam, and Oakley has earned the right say whatever he wants. That doesn’t mean you have to believe all of it.