The New York Knicks are struggling, entering Wednesday with a 24-27 record. At the heart of their issues is Julius Randle. The 27-year-old has followed up last year’s breakthrough campaign with a dud on both sides of the basketball. Worst of all, his sizable contract extension is set to kick in after this season.
A year ago, it was obvious that Randle was a major piece of New York’s championship puzzle. But given how he has looked and the overall state of the franchise, the Knicks would be wise to at least consider trading their All-Star before next week’s trade deadline.
Julius Randle has taken a huge step backward
Let’s begin with a quick side-by-side comparison:
- Player A: 24.1 points on 45.6% shooting, 41.1% from three, 10.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 19.7 PER
- Player B: 18.5 points on 41.4% shooting, 30.7% from three, 9.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 15.3 PER
This might have been an easy one. Player A is the 2020-21 version of Julius Randle, who won Most Improved Player honors and was selected to an All-NBA team for the first time in his career. Player B is this year’s Randle, who is currently in the running for the “Biggest Letdown” Award.
Randle’s numbers deserve to be closely examined. His point total is the lowest it’s been since he averaged 16.1 points in 2017-18, his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers. His 41.4% field-goal rate is the lowest of his entire career, while his 30.7% clip is a steep decline from last season’s career-high.
On top of everything, Randle’s fall could not come at a worse time for New York. The 27-year-old is in the final year of his three-year, $62 million free-agent contract signed in 2019. Beginning this summer, Randle’s four-year deal worth $117 million will kick in, paying him an average of $29.2 million through 2026.
The New York Knicks should entertain offers for Randle
Considering New York just invested nine figures into Randle over the next several years, trading him just a few months later is the last thing it expected to do. But it should at least be considered, given the disappointing season.
The more time passes, the more it appears Randle’s 2020-21 season was an anomaly and not vice versa. He never came anywhere close to 40.0% from three until last year. And even with a great season from beyond the arc, his true shooting percentage was still just 56.7%, lower than his final season in LA and lone year with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Randle’s 101 offensive rating this season means he’s just above league average, as does his 15.3 player efficiency rating (100 and 15 are considered league average, respectively). The only players in New York’s rotation with a lower o-rating are the newly-acquired Cam Reddish (99 in three games) and rookie second-rounder Miles McBride (87 in 20 games).
Simply put, Randle hasn’t just been below average for New York. He’s been a liability for a team that was the four-seed just one year ago. On top of that, Randle’s $21.8 million cap hit is the highest on the team, and that’s before his raise kicks in.
For a fanbase desperate for a contender, one could make the argument Randle is holding the team back. And given his trajectory, it’s doubtful things improve anytime soon.
Randle remains committed to the Knicks
Given his poor play and occasional outbursts, it wasn’t shocking to see Ian Begley of SNY report Randle might be available “for the right return.” Though to his credit, the eight-year veteran is hoping to stay in the Big Apple.
“I still wanna be a part of it,” Randle told The Athletic following Friday’s shootaround in Milwaukee. “I still wanna be a part of helping to try to bring a championship to the Knicks. So, I’m not gonna be happy and be all about it when things are good and just because it’s not necessarily going the way I want it to or the team wants it to run and hide. I’m still behind this. I’m still sticking it through.”
Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, and Alec Burks have given the Knicks very little out of the backcourt. One could say improving that unit would help Randle feel less pressure on the offensive end. But what if the only way to get true improvement at guard is to part with the 2021 All-Star?
There’s a strong case for the Knicks exercising patience with Randle and hoping he bounces out of his season-long funk. But teammate R.J. Barrett is about to receive a rookie extension, more or less committing New York to both players for the foreseeable future. If it feels like that’s the recipe for a championship, then great. But if not … something has to give.