Julius Randle submitted the latest evidence for his case to be an All-Star on Wednesday night in Chicago, when he poured in 27 points, six rebounds and six assists in the Knicks’ win over the Bulls.
But playing like an All-Star does not guarantee a spot on the All-Star team, especially in this year’s crowded class of Eastern Conference players, despite how Randle’s teammates may feel about his candidacy.
“Honestly, it’s not even a question,” point guard Elfrid Payton said before the Knicks flew back to New York for an off day Thursday. “I don’t even know what we’re talking about. He’s definitely been playing at an All-Star level.
“We’ve been winning. I don’t think it’s really a debate. I think it would mean a lot to him. He puts in a lot of work, a lot of things that people don’t see. We all work here, but he puts in a lot of work. He deserves it.”
There’s no question that Randle has been at the center of the Knicks’ turnaround from last season while playing the best basketball of his career — averaging 22.6 points (on 47.5 percent shooting and 39.6 percent from 3), 10.9 rebounds and six assists through 23 games. The Knicks have leaned on him heavily, for 36.7 minutes per night, and the 26-year-old forward has responded by raising his game to another level while leading the way for Tom Thibodeau’s crew.
Still, it’s no sure thing that Randle becomes a first-time All-Star later this month.
The NBA revealed the first batch of fan votes on Thursday and Randle was eighth in the Eastern Conference frontcourt with 175,325 votes. The fan vote makes up 50 percent of the vote for starters with players and media accounting for 25 percent each. Assuming Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid hang onto the three starting spots for the Eastern Conference frontcourt, Randle’s path to the All-Star game would be decided on by the head coaches.
There are seven reserves in each conference. If Bradley Beal and Kyrie Irving remain as the Eastern Conference’s starting guards, Randle’s competition for a reserve spot would include James Harden, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo, Domantas Sabonis, Zach LaVine, Trae Young, Nikola Vucevic, Khris Middleton and Gordon Hayward — not to mention Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Jerami Grant, Jimmy Butler and Malcolm Brogdon.
Entering Thursday, Randle had a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 20.6, which ranked 36th in the NBA and 20th in the Eastern Conference. His 2.7 win shares (per Basketball Reference) were more favorable, rating him 16th in the NBA and seventh in the Eastern Conference, as was his Player Impact Estimate (per NBA.com) of 16.5, placing him 13th in the NBA and seventh in the Eastern Conference.
It remains to be seen how head coaches around the league will measure Randle’s value compared to the rest of the field he’s battling for an All-Star bid. The reserves are set to be announced on Feb. 23 for the game that will reportedly be played on March 7 in Atlanta, despite the pandemic, in part to benefit historically black colleges and universities and COVID-19 relief.
In the meantime, the Knicks will continue to benefit from Randle’s All-Star play.
“It’ll be amazing,” Randle said of potentially playing in the All-Star game. “From everything I know about it, it’s to bring a lot of help to a lot of people out there who need it and to the HBCUs. So it will be great to be a part of and hopefully raise a lot of money and awareness and bring a lot of attention to people who are in need in our country. So it would be amazing to be a part of, for sure.”