Analyzing the data behind Julius Randle’s unique skillset

After missing out on the big fish of the free agency pond, the Knicks have pivoted and begun to fill out the roster with middle tier pieces on short-term deals. What to they bring to the table on the court? Let’s dig into the numbers.

JULIUS RANDLE

Positive: Inside Scoring

  • Randle quietly had one of the best scoring seasons in the NBA last season. His average of 21.4 points per game ranked 19th in the NBA, including seventh among bigs and seventh among players aged 24 or younger.
  • Dropping boatloads of points is nice, but the value of high volume scoring is buoyed tremendously when coupled with equally strong efficiency. With his powerful inside game, Randle combined volume and efficiency like few others in 2018-19. He posted a true shooting percentage of .600, a superb number. Of the 34 players to score 20+ PPG last season, Randle had the seventh-best true shooting percentage, sitting right in between Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.
  • Speaking of Anthony Davis, Randle posted huge numbers when his fellow Kentucky product wasn’t on the court. In 1,173 minutes in which he played without Davis on the court, Randle averaged 28.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per 36 minutes, on a smoking hot .611 true shooting percentage (via FantasyLabs). On the downside, he also averaged 4.1 turnovers per 36 minutes.
  • Randle is a bully-baller who is able to combine brute strength with soft touch around the basket. Via Basketball Reference, Randle has converted on a stellar 70.8% of his shot attempts within three feet of the basket over the last two seasons.
  • Randle’s ability to get to the free throw line is perhaps his best offensive skill. Over the last two seasons, Randle owns a free throw attempt rate of .458, which ranks as the sixth-best mark in the league among the 173 players with at least 1000 field goal attempts over that span. On a career-high 6.7 attempts per game, he shot a career-best 73.1% at the stripe in 2018-19 (although that mark bested his previous high by only 0.8%).
  • The Kentucky product was super-effective as a roll man in New Orleans. He averaged 1.34 points per possession as a roller on pick-and-roll plays last season. That ranked as the sixth-best mark in the league among the 89 players in the league to average at least 1.0 rolling possession per game over at least 40 games played. At #1? A familiar face: Mitchell Robinson.

Positive: Rebounding

  • Rebounding has been a skill that Randle has brought to the table since day one. Over his career, he has averaged 8.9 rebounds per game in 28.5 minutes, for an average of 11.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. Since 2015-16, he ranks 12th in the league in total rebounds with 2,753.
  • Over that same span, he ranks 25th in rebounding percentage among the 202 players to log at least 5,000 minutes, with a mark of 16.6%.
  • Among the 37 players standing 6’9 or shorter to play at least 8000 minutes since 2015-16, Randle owns the best rebounding percentage.
  • Via Cleaning the Glass, the Pelicans saw a 2.3% boost in their offensive rebounding percentage while Randle was on the floor last season, a mark that placed him in the 80th percentile at his position.
  • Very few young players in league history have matched the blend of rebounding and high-volume/high-efficiency scoring Randle has displayed over the past two seasons. He has had back-to-back seasons in which he posted a rebounding percentage of 14+ and a true shooting percentage of .600+ on a usage percentage of 25+. The only other players to have a season meeting those criteria at 24 or younger? Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, Yao Ming, and Shaquille O’Neal. KAT is the only other player to do it twice.

Positive: Passing

  • Randle is a plus passer for his size. In 2018-19, among the 52 players standing 6’8 or taller to play at least 1,000 minutes, Randle ranked 12th in assist percentage with a mark of 15.8%.
  • Randle averaged 3.7 assists and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2018-19. He was one of only seven players to average those numbers while playing over 2000 minutes, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Vucevic, and Russell Westbrook.
  • Via Cleaning the Glass, Randle has ranked in the 86th, 90th, and 92nd percentile at his position in assist percentage over the last three seasons.

Neutral: Improved, but still unimpressive outside shooting

  • Randle added the three-point shot to his arsenal as a member of the Pelicans. He attempted a career-high 2.7 threes per game in 2018-19 and made a decent 34.4% of them, after entering the season shooting only 25.7% on 0.6 attempts per game over his first three full seasons.
  • The Texas native’s mid-range shooting also improved. Via Basketball-Reference, Randle set new career bests shooting 42.6% in the 3-10 foot range and 33.3% in the 16ft-to-three point line range. His 41.2% mark in the 10-16 foot range bested his previous career average of 34.4%.

Negative: Turnovers

  • Randle has been somewhat poor in the turnover department. Among the 45 bigs to play at least 5000 minutes since 2015-16, Randle’s 14.9% turnover percentage ranks as the 11th-worst.
  • Via Cleaning the Glass, Randle has ranked in the 39th, 21st, and 27th percentile at his position in turnover percentage over the last three seasons.

Negative: Defense

  • Defense is undoubtedly the biggest question mark with Randle. In 2018-19, he ranked 62nd out of 64 centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus (DRPM). Among the 52 bigs to play at least 1000 minutes, he ranked 48th in defensive box plus-minus (DBPM).
  • Via NBA.com, in 2018-19, Randle ranked in the 28th percentile defending the roll man and in the 36th percentile defending post ups.
  • Randle’s defensive on/off impact has improved by the year, but he still hasn’t even approached an average level. Over his first four seasons, he has ranked in the 4th, 8th, 16th, and 39th percentile at his position in defensive on/off plus-minus. Via Cleaning the Glass, here is a look at those defensive on/off stats for Randle over the course of his career, including the percentile ranks at his position.

All in all, I’m really excited to see what Randle can bring to the table for the Knicks. Quietly, he has been steadily developing into one of the more intriguing young players in the entire league. He owns a very unique set of skills, possessing the ability to score with great frequency and efficiency inside while also boasting plus rebounding and passing for his size.

We shall see if he can make any strides on the defensive side of the ball. If he can, the potential is there for Randle to be an All-Star caliber player. However, even if that development does not happen, he still brings a lot of skills to the table that can make him a very solid starter at the four.

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