Julius Randles‘ first season as a New York Knick was not well received. Randle was criticized for his selfish play as he was labeled a “ball hog” by both fans and teammates alike. The power forward only averaged three assists per game as he handled the ball.

He was signed with the intention of being the teams’ scorer. The power forward only managed to average 19.5 points per game while shooting 46% and 27% from three-point range. He was always tunneling when he drove to the paint, this caused various turnovers from him. He averaged three turnovers last season and was 16th in the NBA for turnovers. These turnovers also came from his “infamous” spin move that he would always attempt. The spin move would always result in turnovers, yet he continued to employ the move that would become mocked by Knick fans.

These issues led to New York trying to trade him during the offseason to no avail. New York eventually drafted Obi Toppin who was seen by fans as his replacement. Under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, the 26-year-old forward is showing effective play and improvements.

This season, Randle has shown improvements in playing defense. In seven games, he is playing for 38.4 minutes, a career-high 11.4 rebounds. Randle is holding his opponents to 13 percentage points below their season-long field goal percentage. Currently, the Knicks have a top 10 defense in the league and are above .500. They currently have a better record than their crosstown rivals the Brooklyn Nets, who only have three wins and four losses. The Knicks are currently at four wins and three losses.

In addition, Thibodeau is allowing more offensive freedom for Randle so far. The power forward is currently leading the team in touches per game with 98.4. This number is a career-high for him. Although it seems that he is continuing to hold the ball more, he is now more effective in getting it to his teammates’ hands more often. So far, he is averaging seven assists per game and making nearly 70 passes per game. Last season, he only averaged three assists while only making 46 passes per game.

These improvements in the defense and offense have made Randle more effective. The power forward is currently making his early case as a candidate for the NBA Most Improved Player award if he keeps up his excellent play. His improvements are helping his team out more as the Knicks are currently better this season and exceeding low expectations.

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