God knows you don’t need one of your players to go nuclear in order to beat the hell out of the Washington Wizards these days. The gentlemanly thing to do is to humbly go about your business and simply let Russell Westbrook do most of the heavy lifting. The fun and frisky Knicks, who crushed the Wizards flatter than a pancake Tuesday night in New York, certainly benefited from Russ’s talent for losing. But what elevated this from another dreary Eastern Conference mercy killing to a savage, gore-soaked slaughter was Julius Randle, a newly minted All Star and a better NBA team all by himself than the 2021 Wizards, suddenly and very rudely becoming a marksman.
It should be noted that prior to this season Randle has never been even an average three-point shooter, least of all by volume. Randle came into the NBA at a time when “power forward” was not yet just another way of saying “a guy who spaces the floor,” and his journey through the league has been shaped, in large part, by rapidly shifting ideas about what kinds of players can be useful to an offense in a league increasingly sorted by three-point proficiency. Randle was on his second team before he averaged much more than one measly three-point attempt per 36 minutes; before this season, Randle’s seventh, he’d never much sniffed average accuracy, certainly not with the kind of volume that inspires a defense to pay much attention.
But Randle, to his credit, and despite how different coaches have wanted to use him at his various stops, has never really stopped thinking of himself as a guy who unzips a defense from out on the perimeter, career 29-percent three-point percentage be damned. You must crank up the threes if you want defenders to defend you with the kind of urgency that creates driving lanes, and now, in his seventh season, Randle is starting to approach that kind of volume, at 4.7 attempts a night. Much more importantly, he is hitting at the kind of rate that made sharpshooters Davis Bertans and Joe Harris into recent jillionaires: a ridiculous 43 percent. He’s one of just seven players in the whole damn league who have attempted at least 200 three-pointers and knocked down at least 42 percent of them. For a point of comparison, in exactly one season of revolutionary stretch big man Dirk Nowitzki’s career did he attempt at least 4.7 threes per game, and in exactly zero of his 21 seasons did he shoot .428 or better from out there. Randle is Dirk now!
When you are built like a tank, handle and distribute like a lead guard, can respectably defend across four positions, and shoot threes better than Kyrie Irving, what you are is a superstar. More to the point, you are way, way too much for the Washington Wizards to do anything but lay down in front of. Randle put up 37 points through three quarters Tuesday night, and knocked down a preposterous 7-of-10 from deep. The game was already way the hell out of hand when Randle went into some sort of fugue state in the third quarter and just bombed the Wizards into the grave, and then for good measure bombed the grave:
The Wizards would be fully justified in getting a restraining order against this man. Haven’t they suffered enough? The good news is, they do not face the Knicks again at Madison Square Garden until, ah, less than 30 hours* from now. My god.