3 reasons why the Knicks shouldn’t trade Julius Randle this offseason

Mar 29, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) controls the ball against Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What hurts the most about the New York Knicks disappointing finish to the 2022-23 season is that they never got a chance to see the roster play at full strength during the playoffs. Injuries to several players including Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mitchell Robinson eventually became too much for the team to overcome.

The Knicks have big roster decisions to make this offseason

Now, as the offseason commences, the Knicks have important decisions to make about some key players. Anunoby is a free agent, though they are expected to offer him a lucrative long-term contract to bring him back. There’s been speculation that in order to reach an agreement with Anunoby, they will have to trade Randle, who is eligible for a four-year, $182 million extension this summer. If an extension isn’t reached, he will become a free agent after next season.

Could Julius Randle be the Knicks’ odd man out?

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the ability to extend both Randle and Jalen Brunson as well as sign Anunoby, the three-time all-star in Randle has been labeled as the potential odd man out as the Knicks continue to build for the future. The power forward averaged 24 points and 9.2 rebounds last season but missed the final 36 games of the regular season and all of the playoffs after suffering a dislocated shoulder against the Miami Heat in late January.

Despite all of this, the Knicks shouldn’t trade Randle, at least not this summer, and here is why:

Despite the small sample size, Randle fit well with Anunoby and Brunson together

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau high fives New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) with guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) and forward OG Anunoby (8) and guard Jalen Brunson (11) during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Because of the injury to Randle, the Knicks only got 12 games of him, Brunson, and Anunoby on the floor together. However, in those games, the trio was dominant. The team went 11-1 in games they all played together, and they had a net rating of 24.5 when they shared the floor, according to NBA statistics.

These numbers indicate that the addition of Anunoby to the duo of Brunson and Randle enhanced both sides of the ball, which helped the team win more games, many of which in blowout fashion. Randle’s individual numbers improved as well, as in the month of January he averaged 25/8/5 and shot 48% from the floor and 37% from outside the arc.

In contrast, Randle shot just 28% from three before the Anunoby trade, and the three-man lineup of Randle, Brunson, and RJ Barrett posted a net rating of -1.0 in 26 games played together. The moment that Brunson blossomed into the star he currently is, the question became whether his long-term Robin would be Randle or Barrett. After the Knicks traded Barrett, many were skeptical about how successful they would be given that Randle now had an expanded role with one less ball-dominant player on the floor.

Though the overall sample size is small, the big three of Randle, Brunson, and Anunoby has already shown more potential than they ever did with Barrett. Anunoby was clearly a better fit for Randle and Brunson to play to their strengths, which has turned them into one of the most valuable duos in the entire NBA.

Trading Randle would mean losing one of the most valuable players at his position

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at Randle’s talent level individually, the Knicks should feel lucky to currently have him on a very team-friendly contract at four-year, $117 million deal. Since becoming a Knick in the 2019 offseason, the power forward has broken out from being an above-average role player to a full-blown star.

In the past four seasons, Randle has made the All-Star team three times, made an All-NBA team twice, led the Knicks in scoring in the 2022-23 season (25 PPG), and won the league’s Most Improved Player award in 2021. He is one of just two power forwards to average at least 23 points, nine rebounds, and five assists over the past four seasons combined, with Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo being the only other player at the position to do so.

Randle’s rise to prominence can be credited to the Knicks’ hiring of head coach Tom Thibodeau, a coach of which has by far the most success out of all of the coaches Randle has played for throughout his ten-year career. However, Randle deserves the credit as well, as his hard demeanor and workhorse mentality have driven him to finally become the player he was projected to be when he was drafted seventh overall in 2014.

Tracing back to this past season, it became clear that the Knicks were struggling to replace the high-level production that Randle gave prior to going down. They tried having Precious Achiuwa take his spot, but it wasn’t working. So, they had Josh Hart essentially play the position, and while he provided positive results, the lack of size was definitely a missing feature that hurt them in the postseason.

It would be nearly impossible for the Knicks to replace Randle’s unique production

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New York Knicks
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Bottom line, it is nearly impossible to replace the unique production that Randle gives this Knicks team, as his ability to score from all spots of the court at a very high level is something that very few can do at his position. Trading him this summer could have serious repercussions on their future, and could even be classified as a rash decision by the front office.

The Knicks, at full health, have the pieces they need to compete for an NBA championship. Barring a drastic necessity, this team doesn’t need to shake up the roster that got them to this point. Smaller, marginal additions and potential salary-dumping moves with less impactful players could arguably be more beneficial than trading the guy who began the turnaround of the franchise in the first place.

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