(Photo by Emilee Chinn / Getty Images)
The playoffs didn’t go as planned for Julius Randle and the New York “Kentucky” Knicks, but his seventh year in the NBA was not a failure.
In fact, it was quite the opposite.
The NBA recently announced that Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named 2020-21 MVP after posting absolutely insane numbers of 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game for third best Western Conference team. But looking at the ballot, a familiar name received a significant number of votes: Mr. Randle.
He has already added the award for the most improved player to his CV for the 2020-21 season and now Randle can say he was also one of the top 10 MVP contenders. According to the NBA vote breakdown, the former Kentucky Wildcat finished eighth for the league’s best player of the 2020-21 regular season with 20 points overall. Randle received one third-place vote (worth five points each), two fourth-place votes (worth three points each), and nine fifth-place votes (worth one point each).
Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists on a 45.6 / 41.1 / 81.1 shooting distribution in 71 of 72 possible games played 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 MVP votes:
Yeah, that’s right. Julius Randle has received more MVP votes than LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Ben Simmons, Russell Westbrook and Rudy Gobert. Outside of Simmons, the rest of this group is almost guaranteed a Hall of Fame day.
While Randle is a major longshot to do the HOF himself someday, it’s certainly a good start. The 26-year-old is in a position to earn a big pay raise this offseason and the Knicks front office would surely like to keep the player who led the franchise to his first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season.
But now it’s time to learn from your 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 stifled by a constantly crumbling Hawks defense. He’s proven he can be a dominant force in the regular season, but it’s in the playoffs that respect is earned. With assistant coach Kenny Payne by his side, there’s no reason to believe Randle can’t take another leap forward.