The Knicks have to make a difficult decision on the future of their three-time All-Star big man

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

A cascade of injuries saw the New York Knicks depleted and defeated at the hands of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The absence of three-time All-Star Julius Randle showed in the playoffs while the Knicks were hobbled, but the catalyst of the season was the acquisition of OG Anunoby.

Before the New Year, the Knicks showed potential but lacked cohesion and the humility required to be in the upper echelons of NBA championship discourse. Following a late December trade, Anunoby quickly introduced himself to the fold as the Knicks went 12-2 with the star forward in the lineup and boasted the best defense in the NBA.

The arrival of Anunoby brought versatility to the Knicks and created even better depth, making New York a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. A January 27th contest against the rival Miami Heat saw injuries to both Anunoby and Randle, which began a whirlwind for the Knicks that extended through the rest of the season. 

Injuries derailed Julius Randle’s momentum this season

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) is helped up by teammates after being injured during the second half against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden
Jan 27, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) is helped up by teammates after being injured during the second half against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A shoulder dislocation saw Randle on the sideline for the rest of the season while Anunoby dealt with a lingering right elbow injury that caused him to get surgery and return to the floor pain-free two months later. With Anunoby back in the rotation, the Knicks went on to win five of their next six games to close the season as the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Knicks boasted a 17-3 record with Anunoby in the lineup heading into the playoffs against the reigning MVP Joel Embiid. The tenacity of Anunoby was reminiscent of Randle, but what stuck out predominantly was the insistence on the defensive end.

Anunoby was a defensive machine by himself, and his skill set on the defensive end allowed teammates to maximize their roles more efficiently while raising the team’s defensive intensity seamlessly. It was a perfect pot of “Thibodeau Stew” as the Knicks looked dominant heading into their second-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers.

Randle lacks defensively

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

A critique of Randle is his lack on the defensive end. His lack of effort if he’s having a poor night offensively has been a detriment to the New York Knicks. Randle’s passion for the game can be seen when he is winning, but even sustaining that level of passion when losing or things don’t go their way makes the difference between championship teams.

The mentality your top player moves with permeates the entire rotation. It can be argued that Jalen Brunson is better than Randle when looking at their career numbers, but what’s inarguable is how much better the team performs, led by Brunson than Randle.

The Knicks need to trade Randle to elevate their ceiling

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

In a sport where change is inevitable, being ahead of the curve has made dynasties. The New York Knicks have Randle on a four-year $117 million contract, and turning 30 is expected to make $30 million next season. Big names like Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, and even LeBron James have been tied to the New York Knicks.

With the progression of Brunson and a healthy Anunoby next season, trading Randle would be a move New York must make if it raises the ceiling of the Knicks. Nothing for a young player with high potential, but if a proven winner and established player shows disgruntled signs, then New York must make the accommodations.

With the Knicks once again a team that franchise players would be proud to represent if the right deal awaits, it would be malpractice to disregard for the sake of criticism or media scrutiny. 

Mentioned in this article:

More about: