Julius Randle can claim another accolade after his unexpected leap to stardom this season. He is the winner of the N.B.A.’s Most Improved Player Award.
He is the first Knick to win the award. Randle’s winning was not much of a surprise, given that he posted career highs in several categories, including points per game, 3-point percentage and assists per game. His strong play garnered him his first career All-Star selection and he is also a candidate to make an All-N.B.A. team for the first time. If he makes the All N.B.A. team, he will be the first Knick to do so since Carmelo Anthony in 2013.
Randle, 26, was the Knicks’ best player all season, and he was as durable as he was reliable — leading the N.B.A. in minutes played. On a team without many playmakers, Randle shouldered much of the offensive burden each night, and he became a fan favorite in the process.
His versatility put the Knicks squarely in a playoff race for the first time since 2013. And now, Randle is leading the Knicks as a No. 4 seed in a first-round playoff series against the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks lost the first game in a nail-biter, 107-105. Game 2 is Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.