Knicks’ ‘top target’ could be Utah Jazz star power foward

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz, Lauri Markkanen, knicks
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

In a world where the New York Knicks make an aggressive play to land Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz, they would likely have to offload All-NBA power forward Julius Randle. Randle is coming off a disappointing season that ended with a dislocated shoulder, eventually being shut down after accepting surgery.

Randle will be 30 next year and is entering the third year of a four-year, $117 million deal. He will count $28.9 million against the salary cap, including a player option for the 2025–26 season at $30.1 million. The Knicks could consider offloading him this off-season for a younger and more durable player, which is why Markkanen could make sense.

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and guard Jalen Brunson (11) react to a play against the Utah Jazz during the third quarter at Delta Center
Dec 13, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and guard Jalen Brunson (11) react to a play against the Utah Jazz during the third quarter at Delta Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Assessing Markkanen’s Fit With the Knicks

Markkanen was the most improved player in the NBA during the 2022–23 season but has earned just one All-Star appearance over seven seasons. This past campaign, he averaged 23.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and two assists, shooting .480 from the field and .399 from three-point range. Markkanen isn’t known for his defensive qualities but rather his offensive efficiency, and he’s more productive than Randle, who has slightly more volume.

Some may argue that Markkanen would struggle to hold up in a Tom Thibodeau-led unit, but the 27-year-old averaged 33.1 minutes per game this season compared to 35.4 from Randle. The margin is slim, so the Knicks wouldn’t have to worry too much about his usage but more so about his defensive development.

According to Heavy.com, one NBA general manager believes that Markkanen will be a “top target” for the Knicks and several other teams, including the Lakers and Heat.

“There are a few teams that, when you look at it, he is going to be their dream target,” an NBA GM said. “The Lakers, you get a guy like him with Anthony Davis, and that’s perfect for both guys. The Knicks would love to get hold of him. The Heat, again, put him with Bam (Adebayo) and that is the pair you want to build around, you can send Jimmy (Butler) wherever he wants.”

Fortunately for New York, they not only have a significant amount of draft capital at their disposal but also several quality players with whom they can swap contracts. Markkanen is entering the final year of a four-year, $67.4 million deal at $18 million against the salary cap next season.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz
Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks would have to acquire and sign him to an extension immediately, but at his age, they wouldn’t have to worry much about his health and overall fit. The question is, how valuable is Randle to New York, and do they feel he can be the missing piece to a championship puzzle? Ultimately, he’s been inefficient during the playoffs, and this past season, the Knicks were forced to compete without a top player — he’s been mostly healthy over the past four years before the shoulder dislocation.

At this point, it seems more likely that the Knicks will stick with what they have rather than make a blockbuster deal, but you can never rule out a big move, especially if the right player comes across Leon Rose’s desk.

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