Former Knicks exec thinks that trading Julius Randle would be a big mistake

Jan 18, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) controls the ball against Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma (33) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have inched closer and closer toward a championship-caliber roster over the last six months and could deal with one of their best players to put a stamp on their efforts. However, a former Knicks general manager thinks that doing so would be a vital mistake for the team.

Former Knicks GM Scott Perry thinks the Knicks should keep Julius Randle

New York Knicks general manager Scott Perry speaks to the media on media day at MSG Training Center

Scott Perry, who served as Knicks GM from the summer of 2017 until the summer of 2023, recently went on the “Hoop Genius” podcast and had this to say about how imperative he feels it is for the Knicks to hang on to All-Star Julius Randle for the time being, amid a wave of trade rumors (h/t Scott Davis of The Sporting News):

“People seem to forget who Julius Randle is. Julius Randle is the only three-time All-Star on his team. He’s the only two-time All-NBA player. You cannot be rushing to get him out of the building,” Perry said.

“And I love OG Anunoby and Mikal Bridges, but they are not guys that you are running offense through. They play off of the other good players, the top players. They’re in their best position playing off of Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. Because those are your two guys who can really go get buckets against a set defense … Julius Randle, you hold onto him unless you can replace him with another All-NBA player or All-Star performer. Because without him, I don’t know — the Knicks would still be formidable, but they would miss a guy who can create offense against a set defense and when things broke down and everything wouldn’t just have to be on Jalen Brunson’s shoulders.”

The Knicks are not unwise in entertaining trades for their two-time All-NBA talent. Randle is a proven 24-25 point-per-game scorer who does many things well on the floor. His slashing, interior presence and shot-making ability have been the single-most impactful factor in the Knicks’ returning to prominence in recent years, and understating that would be a disservice to his name.

That being said, the Kentucky product’s playoff woes, middling defense, and offensive play style are not perfect fits with what the Knicks have placed around him and All-Star Jalen Brunson in their six months of executing game-changing moves in the open market. There are three ways the Knicks can approach Randle’s situation moving forward.

Knicks have a lot of mouths to feed which could diminish Randle’s shot attempts

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

For one, New York could take heed to Perry’s plea and keep Randle on board. With that though, would breed a starting lineup where four of their top scorers — Jalen Brunson (21.4 FGA), Mikal Bridges (15.8 FGA), OG Anunoby (11.1 FGA), and Randle (18.2 FGA) — all demand their fair share of touches in the offense.

It doesn’t help that Bridges has already had a taste for being a team’s featured scorer for two years running, including a 2022-23 close to the campaign which saw him average 26.1 PPG for the Brooklyn Nets. That may be too good of a taste for him to no longer want to indulge in, especially as he enters his age-29 season with a world of upside ahead of him.

The same goes for Anunoby, who has been touted for years as a future three-and-d star caliber player. Though he selflessly ingratiated himself into the Knicks’ rotation last season, he too could be liable to want an increased role in 2024-25. As ego-less as the NBA has been trending in recent years, player egos are always a factor every season.

To cap it off, Brunson was at the doorstep of winning league MVP last time around, and to appease his teammates, even a reduction of three shot attempts per contest could impact his output. Recent reports say that he is strongly entertaining signing a team-friendly contract extension which says a lot about his humility and win-first mentality toward the team, but like Bridges and Anunoby, he may want to continue playing up to MVP standard, which would necessitate similar touches from 2023-24.

Should the Knicks dive in on trading Randle for Jazz star Lauri Markkanen?

Feb 11, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) dunks the ball against New York Knicks center Jericho Sims (45) and forward Julius Randle (30) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s the popular move that the Knicks could take. Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Paul George would be the perfect finishing touch on a Knicks starting lineup that needs another MVP-caliber player to eliminate doubt about their supremacy in the Eastern Conference. Though, it’s unclear if the Clippers would want Randle in return for George.

Thus, Utah Jazz star Lauri Markkanen would make all the sense in the world as a secondary option. He can play the five in small-ball lineups, man his regular role at the four, and has a history of thriving while playing small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2021-22. What more could a team ask for from a 7-footer who has shot lights out at 39.5 percent from three-point range over his last two seasons, and is one of the most skilled scorers in basketball? Markkanen is great at catching and shooting, driving to the basket, and finishing with high-arcing shots at the rim, and plays good defense, which is only heightened by his height and wingspan.

Since the Jazz have their own lucrative pot of draft picks stashed away for the future, they could potentially be had if the Knicks offer up Randle, a combination of a couple of key role players including Mitchell Robinson, Josh Hart, and Donte DiVincenzo, and a first-rounder to add incentive. While DiVincenzo is a player that would hurt to give up, obtaining Markkanen and placing him next to Isaiah Hartenstein or Jericho Sims in the frontcourt would give Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau all the flexibility in the world to mix-and-match with lineups that can run and gun.

With his name escalating in trade talks over the last 24-plus hours, the Knicks could walk away from the early portion of the offseason with a roster that is far and away better on both ends of the floor than it was last year, yet alone at the start of the Randle era in 2019-20.

Knicks could wait until the trade deadline to move Randle

Nov 20, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If either extreme is, well, too extreme for the Knicks to set their hearts on right away, a prudent approach would be giving their three-time All-Star the benefit of the doubt for the first half of next season before making a decision on his future. Randle will be returning from a dislocated shoulder he sustained on Jan. 27. New York could test the waters and not only see how he returns from said injury, but also how he fits in the Knicks’ new offense.

Will he try to continue to assert himself as an alpha on offense? Will the 29-year-old be open to taking another step back to ensure that the engine flows well in 2024-25? If the Knicks can parlay Randle with assets to land George or Markkanen, those should be no brainier deals to jump on. If not, the smartest approach would be to keep their former franchise player on board and pull the plug next winter if things don’t shake out according to plan.

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