Knicks are optimistic that star forward can return in a matter of weeks

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

The last 48 hours have been scary for the Knicks, as when two-time All-NBA forward Julius Randle fell hard on his shoulder, concerns emerged about what looked like a season-ending injury. He dislocated his shoulder, and while initial X-rays revealed minimal damage outside of the dislocation, reports fell silent about the MRI scans he had in the hours following his injury. It was expected that Randle would miss some time, but the severity of the injury would determine the team’s ceiling for the postseason.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN now reports that indications are optimistic about Julius Randle’s absence being measured in weeks instead of months, and both the organization and fanbase can let out a sigh of relief as they’ve avoided a worst-case scenario.

Julius Randle Expected to Return to the Knicks in a Matter of Weeks

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center
Jan 23, 2024; Brooklyn, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Randle is one of the best offensive players in the NBA and has improved greatly in shot selection and discipline this past season. He got off to an ugly start as he returned from ankle surgery over the summer, but has since been on a tear, and he’s now averaging 24 points per game on roughly league-average efficiency. The two-time All-Star has been the co-star to Jalen Brunson and has helped guide this team to one of the best records in the NBA, and when he crashed onto the floor in their win over the Miami Heat, everyone held their breath.

Losing your second-best player for the remainder of the season would be detrimental, and as testing continues, all signs are pointing towards a return before the playoffs begin. It also seems he’ll have time before the postseason to get himself back into form if there’s any rust after not playing for an extended period of time. Randle is known as a rhythm scorer who can get very hot or very cold, and while we’ve seen improvements in his consistency, coming back from injury is often a drawn-out process.

The Knicks have more pressure to make additions at the deadline, as while they’re expected to get Randle back after a few weeks, they’ll still need bench depth to stay afloat while he’s sidelined. He’s often run with the second unit to run the offense, and New York will need to find someone who can fill in as the primary ball-handler and sixth man. It’s not as if they aren’t trying, as the Knicks have been linked to various options on the trade market.

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) dribbles up court against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden
Feb 11, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) dribbles up court against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Clarkson, who is averaging 18 points a game, is a former Sixth Man of the Year winner who could galvanize the Knicks’ offense when the starters are off the court. The Knicks have shown interest in his services, and his multiple years of control could prove valuable if they decide to flip him as a salary filler in a blockbuster deal for an elite player this summer. His efficiency from three isn’t great (30.9%) but his volume and shot creation still create enough gravity and could space the floor for New York.

Malcolm Brogdon is another Sixth Man of the Year winner the Knicks have targeted, as he’s an incredible three-point shooter with playmaking abilities that could elevate their second unit. At 6’4, he’s a larger guard who could play alongside Miles McBride and form a tenacious duo at the perimeter with their excellent defense at the top of the key and their great three-point shooting numbers.

Gordon Hayward could become an interesting buyout target, especially with Julius Randle injured, as he’s a playmaking forward with an aggressive approach offensively as he can drive to the basket and create strong looks a the rim. The Knicks have had an interest in him for a while, and he’s been a strong defensive player over the years as well, and he could provide insurance for New York as Julius Randle nurses his injury.