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It’s time to trade Randle!! I don’t know how many times I have to say it. Even though Randle has played extremely well over the recent stretch of games, it hasn’t changed my opinion. It’s not because I am stubborn like Thibs, it’s because I understand what the Knicks need and what Randle provides.
Respect for Randle
Before I start stating my case for why the Knicks need to trade Randle, I want to show you the reader/Knick fan that I actually know more about the man than most the fans that are in favor of keeping Randle. First and foremost, I want to make it clear that Julius is a very good player. Also, his contract while not great is not bad.
Julius is a talented player that has worked hard on his game. Fans forget that Randle was considered by many to be the best high school player in his class. The only reason he fell to 7th in the 2014 draft after being a 1-and-done at Kentucky was because there was concern about his foot which he broke in high school.
When he came on the scene, he was the classic back-to-the basketball bully-ball big man. But the NBA game underwent a dramatic change in style of play which resulted in Randle’s game becoming obsolete. Many viewed Randle as a dinosaur that was about to become extinct. But to Randle’s credit he recognized this and evolved his game. When he got to New Orleans, he was given the green light from then head coach Alvin Gentry to shoot 3s. Julius rewarded Gentry’s trust by improving his average to 34.4% on 2.7 attempts a game, just enough to keep defenses honest.
When Julius got to New York he showed he had more to his game. He had superior handling skills for a big man. Coach Fizdale was impressed and decided that Randle was the team’s best option for initiating the offense. That is pretty remarkable for a player that only 2 seasons before was a reserve on a bad Lakers team.
Randle is also a beast on the boards, averaging 10 rebounds a game in his 4 seasons in New York. Randle has also averaged 21.4 points per game over the past 5 seasons since leaving the Lakers. Then there is his passing, which is above average for a big man. But with that said, it still doesn’t make sense for the Knicks to build around Randle long term.
The Case for Trading Randle
The Knicks desperately need a superstar and Randle wants to be one, but there is no part of his game that is elite. The Knicks only have 2 players with elite offensive skills. There is Jalen Brunson, who despite his size is one of the best at scoring within 10 feet of the rim and then there is Mitchell Robinson who is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. Randle on the other hand is not a dominant scorer around the rim, shoots under 50% from 3-10 feet. When you look at jump shots his preferred move, he is only shooting 38.8% on a shot type that accounts for almost 70% of his attempts. On 3-point shots, he leads the team with 7.0 attempts a game, but is only hitting 33.7% of them.
Then there is the fit with his teammates. His game doesn’t compliment any of the other starters. It’s redundant with Brunson and Barrett’s skillset, all 3 are lefties that need the ball in their hands and are not great outside shooters. Mitch would prefer to play with a Stretch-4 that would open up the floor for him. Grimes would prefer to play with a Power Forward that takes less 3s than him.
The Return of Covid Randle
Then there is the case that has been made by many fans like our own Ryan G who are optimistic that Randle’s recent play signifies the return of ‘Covid Randle’. While his play has been impressive you have to consider the quality of opponent: Atlanta, Charlotte, and Sacramento. In those games, Randle was matched up against role players and rookies because of injuries to the starters.
Staying on the topic of Covid Randle, what I don’t understand about Knick fans recollection of the 2020-21 season is why they dismiss the most important part of it, the playoffs. The Randle we saw in the playoffs when the arenas were packed, and the opponent was at full strength shot 29.8% from the field and made 4.6 turnovers per game. Many fans brushed it off as inexperience as it was his 1st time in the playoffs, but his performance and attitude in that series were a prelude to the Randle we were going to get in the following season when the playing conditions returned to normal.
Then there is the front office side of things. No front office hits on all their decisions, so they need to make sure they hit on the big decisions; lottery picks and signing high-priced veterans. They also need to avoid bad decisions that can’t easily move on from.
When you look at Leon Rose’s moves, he has done very well on picks outside the lottery: Quickley, Grimes, McBride, and Sims. He has done fairly well on low-to-midsize veteran acquisitions. The Fournier signing wasn’t worked out, but that is more of a function of the young players exceeding expectations, so that is a good. Plus, Fournier becomes an expiring contract next season.
The Power Forward Position
The two decisions that could result in Leon losing his job on married to each other, it’s how he has managed the Power Forward position. Signing Randle to a 4yr/$117M extension is not a terrible contract as discussed in my previous article, ‘Things To Be Thankful For‘, which points out that Julius’s salary is in-line which his production. He is only the 8th highest paid Power Forward in the NBA. The issue is giving out that contract after the team had drafted his replacement, Obi Toppin.
The desire to trade Julius Randle wouldn’t be so intense if the Knicks hadn’t drafted Obi Toppin. The reality is that one of the two players needs to get traded, and Obi’s value is lower than it should because he is the backup. If the Knicks are not able to extract value from these two players, then the drafting of Toppin will be seen as a major mistake.
Wasting a Lottery Pick
The main reason the Knicks have struggled to build a winner is because they have missed out on 3 out their 4 last lottery picks. In 2017, they drafted Frank Ntilikina over Donovan Mitchell. In 2018, they drafted Kevin Knox over Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA). At this moment, the decision to draft Obi Toppin instead of fellow CAA client Tyrese Haliburton is looking like a mistake. It looks especially bad when you consider than Leon Rose’s son Sam is part of the CAA team that represents Obi Toppin.
So, Leon needs to move Randle for a reasonable return, not only to keep his job, but also set up the team to acquire a real star player.