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How Knicks can adjust to Julius Randle's injury

A late-game fall for Knicks star Julius Randle, resulting in a dislocated shoulder, shifted the tenor of a 125-109 victory over the rival Miami Heat. 

Fans panicked at the prospect of this inspiring run and newfound competitiveness coming to an immediate end, but it appears Randle’s recovery may take mere weeks instead of months, meaning this season isn’t lost.

The Knicks will be missing out on Randle's 25.5 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game over his last 40, on 50-33-80 shooting splits. They'll also miss his nine 30-point games this season, multiple clutch moments and, until now, not a single night off.

While only having to solve that loss for the short-term instead of the whole season is a plus, it’s still a tough challenge ahead for the Knicks. Who will need to step up, and where will they look for help?

The revised starting lineup will likely insert Josh Hart at the three, moving OG Anunoby down to the four spot. OG has spent 31 percent of his time there as a Knick, according to Basketball Reference, mostly as part of bench units.

That lineup should fare well, as Anunoby can play nearly any position, and Hart in there helps keep the ball moving and makes up for some of the rebounding loss. Though that lineup has yet to debut, a version of it with Quentin Grimes in for Donte DiVincenzo is outscoring opponents by 52.7 points per 100 possessions in 26 minutes played.

Hart would sub out early to come back in as the backup four. We’ll also likely see some Precious Achiuwa at the four given his 6-foot-8 frame, solid mobility and Tom Thibodeau’s love for big lineups.

Even with the rotation intact, the Knicks will need to get Randle’s scoring and creation from somewhere. Most of the load will fall on star Jalen Brunson, but as we saw from Monday night’s win over the Hornets, others will have to step up, too.

DiVincenzo is a prime candidate, having turned in big games when this team has been short-handed and displaying some self-creation he wasn’t able to with the roster at full strength. Fans will remember his 38-point outburst the night New York shipped off RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, and his 28 helped the Knicks pull away Monday night.

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) slaps hands with center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) after a basket against the Miami Heat during the first half at Madison Square Garden

It’ll be interesting to see how much Randle’s absence unleashes Anunoby’s offensive game. He was strictly a shooter and cutter upon arrival, but reached into his bag more these last few games, at times making the Kawhi Leonard comparisons look sensible.

He’s now more comfortably involved in the Knicks' sets and offense, and is looking to attack the rim off the dribble more. From there, we’ve seen him step back into a mid-range jumper, and pull off both power and precision finishes (euro-steps and spin layups!) once he’s in the paint.

It’ll be interesting to see how his game further evolves. The Randle injury actually serves as a good chance to see the scope of Anunoby’s offensive talents and apply the findings into the late season and playoffs.

New York will need its bench guards -- Grimes and Miles McBride -- to contribute consistently in Randle’s absence. The good news is they’ve both been hot as of late.

If the Knicks can’t hold the fort with their current depth, or Randle suffers a setback, they’ll need to look to the trade or free agent markets for help -- and they already added some on Tuesday with the re-signing of Taj Gibson to a 10-day contract.. Others available in the pool are Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, and JaMychal Green.

The Knicks can also look to trade for a four who can slip into Randle’s spot and then back down to the bench when he returns.

Jonathan Isaac, a scary but injury-plagued defender, would be a tantalizing addition. Harrison Barnes and Kelly Olynyk are two veteran options who shouldn’t come with a hefty price tag.

New York reportedly covets Tari Eason, but that might take a one-for-one with Grimes, leaving them thin at the guard position. However, they could pair that with an Evan Fournier trade to upgrade the backcourt, filling all the holes.

Whatever short-term measures the Knicks employ, it won’t make up for losing a perennial All-NBA talent. The best they can do is tread water until he returns. Luckily, they should have the depth to pull it off.