Knicks facing massive decision with All-NBA forward returning from injury

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
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks faced a challenging postseason, significantly hampered by injuries that might have cost them a deeper playoff run. Key players, including Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson, suffered serious injuries, while Julius Randle, a pivotal figure for the team, was out with a dislocated shoulder. The accumulation of injuries underscored the team’s need for depth and resilience, which they aim to address in the upcoming season.

Randle’s Contract Situation and Knicks’ Strategic Choices

Julius Randle, the 29-year-old All-NBA forward, is in a crucial phase of his contract with the Knicks, carrying a $30.3 million cap hit next season which represents 21.5% of the league’s cap. Although he has a player option for the 2025-26 season at $31 million, his future with the Knicks is under speculation.

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) high fives guard Josh Hart (3) in front of Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Randle’s performance before his injury was solid, averaging 24 points and 9.2 rebounds over 46 games, securing an All-Star selection. However, his injury led the Knicks to make several trades at the deadline, enhancing their roster with players like OG Anunoby and Bojan Bogdanovic to fill the void.

The Knicks are at a crossroads with Randle. They could explore trading him to free up cap space and potentially bring in a high-caliber player like Kevin Durant from the Phoenix Suns. Despite Randle’s undeniable impact, Durant’s scoring prowess could transform the team’s dynamics. However, the physicality and leadership Randle provides are valued highly by head coach Tom Thibodeau, suggesting that he might remain a key component of the Knicks’ strategy.

This summer presents an opportunity for the Knicks to reshape their roster. Randle is eligible for a four-year, $181.5 million extension, though the front office might hesitate given his current contract status and the team’s flexibility needs. The strategy might lean more towards retaining core players, possibly extending contracts for Brunson and Anunoby, whose defensive excellence and scoring ability were sorely missed due to his playoff injuries.

As the Knicks navigate this offseason, they will also need to consider the future of other free agents like Isaiah Hartenstein, who has emerged as a vital energy player for the team. Decisions made during this period will be crucial in shaping the Knicks’ competitiveness and depth for the upcoming seasons.

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