The New York Knicks have been completely underwhelmed in their first postseason series since 2013. The Atlanta Hawks simply have a deeper team with more effective scorers, as they have completely limited All-Star Julius Randle. In their most recent loss and game for Atlanta, Randle scored 23 points, shooting 7-of-19 from the field and recording 10 rebounds. While heâ€™s been solid on the boards, Randle has taken inefficient shots and hasn’t looked himself during this most recent stretch.
Ultimately, the Knicks are failing because Randle isnâ€™t producing in crunch time, and it proposes the question:
Should the Knicks still consider offering him a max contract despite his most recent struggles?
The answer is yes, as, without Randle, the Knicks wouldnâ€™t even be close to contending for a playoff spot, let alone earning home-court advantage to start the first series in nearly a decade. Finishing the 2020â€“21 season with 47 wins represents one of the greatest leaps and quality the NBA has seen in quite some time, and the Knicks are at the forefront of it.
Separating from their best player would make matters that much worse, so they should be looking to extend Randle sooner rather than later, especially if he pieces together another incredible season in 2022, which will raise his price tag even further.
With so much youth currently on the team, the Knicks have the financial flexibility to maneuver and add another talented player around Randle. They already have RJ Barrett taking a step forward in his second season at just 20 years old, the emergence of Immanuel Quickley, and a few quality pieces that can still play contributing roles. I would also love to see the return of Derrick Rose, who seems to be rejuvenated under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
If the Knicks can retain some of their best players this season and utilize additional money to sign another big-name, they can put themselves in a great spot to compete next year in a more proficient fashion. They have two first-round draft picks, money, and developmental players with upside. They have all the right factors making positive progress, so with the right coaching and direction, this team has the potential to be great in the future.
However, Randle’s regular season should not be overlooked because of four games in the playoffs. He averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, showcasing his quality at 26 years old. Considering how young he is (26) and the work he put in last off-season to make such an astronomical leap in production, the expectation is that he will continue to improve and be mentally prepared for the postseason next time around.
It would be a very Knicks-esq thing to do if they justified not extending Randle and tried to piece together another team full of journeyman and no established stars. It seems as if free agency might be a bit more tumultuous than previously expected this upcoming off-season, so they will have to pick and choose their battles, especially with salary space to utilize.