The Knicks' season begins in thirteen days. (!!!) We couldn't possibly be more excited — finally, a Knicks team with barely an Isiah Thomas fingerprint on it! — so we'll be counting down the eleven most important Knicks twice a week until opening night on October 27. The best sign we can give you: Eddy Curry isn't among the eleven. Today: forward/center Anthony Randolph.
Anthony Randolph is going to drive you crazy this year. It's sort of what he does. He is athletically gifted to a degree that seems unfair to normal humans. He's fast, he's tall — he's thought to have grown another inch or two since entering the NBA, making him seven feet now — and at some point he's going to jump so high that he'll dent the scoreboard with his knee. He's an excellent passer, draws fouls, hits free throws, and, thanks to his height and length, can guard just about every position. He is the platonic ideal of a Mike D'Antoni player; the Knicks wanted him in the 2008 draft, taking Danilo Gallinari instead, and now they have him after all. He's only 21 years old. He's a potential centerpiece, Lamar Odom but better. Check out this highlight package from a couple of years ago, in a Golden State game against Utah:
But: He's only 21 years old, and his brain is often closer to a 12-year-old's. He's sloppy, he's often lethargic, and he'll make mistakes so dunderheaded that you wonder how he made it to the gym on time. We've seen a little of this already in the Knicks' preseason. Last night against the Celtics, he played only nineteen minutes, in many of which he disappeared, making little to no impact. (Also, he had a rather embarrassing missed-dunk-then-hanging-on-the-rim technical.) He also has a tendency to fall in love with his mid-range jumper, which is unfortunate, since it's probably the weakest part of his game. But it speaks to the frustration he'll put you through; a player with his skills should be driving and slashing and leaping all over the place, not chucking up jumpers because he couldn't think of anything else to do. It's why the Warriors had no trouble trading him (with Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf) for David Lee. After two years, they'd seen enough of him. He was making them nuts.
He also had ankle problems last year that limited him to 33 games, though the ankle looks healthy so far this year. It's the brain that's the problem.
But it is early, and Randolph has so, so much skill. There will be moments this season when he electrifies the Garden with raw ability that rivals even Amar'e Stoudemire. He won't do it consistently, because he's 21 years old and has a long way to go. He'll start the season on the bench, and the way he's playing so far, he may stay there, coming in as a shot of energy until he makes enough mistakes that D'Antoni sits him back down. If he can put it together, though, if he can find himself in D'Antoni's system, if he can settle his game down and trust his natural skills to do all the work, the Knicks could have themselves a legitimate superstar. That's expecting a lot. But man, if it happens ... look out.