When a player plays like Julius Randle did for the New York Knicks this season, you don’t trade him. Instead, you build with him.
Julius Randle was exceptional. Averaging 23.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, while shooting 48.0% from the field, 40.7% from three-point range and 80.2% from the free-throw line, he was an elite force for the Knicks. His play earned a nod from the All-Stars.
Randle does all of this offensively. He plays in isolation, scores from the post, throws fadeaway jump shots, finishes inside, and takes midfield shots and 3-point sweaters with ease. He is a goal scorer for the Knicks and became the dominant goal scorer they so desperately needed.
The fact that Randle did well despite the defensive attention he received took the pressure off the rest of the Knicks. RJ Barrett managed to hit the ball as a secondary offensive source. Elfrid Payton managed to work his way through the ball. Immanuel Quickley came right off the bench as a floater and 3-pointer. Wings Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks stretched the floor. When Mitchell Robinson got healthy again, he went back to painting and became a defensive back.
New York is 14-16 and ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference. Without Randle, the team would be at the bottom of the league.
The visual difference between Randle this season and last is striking. If you had first seen the Kentucky product in his first year with the Knicks (2019-20), you would have thought he was a very productive player whose game left much to be desired in terms of impact. If you had seen Randle for the first time this season, you would have thought he was a star.
He went from a productive player who struggled to make a difference with the Knicks to their franchise player. That’s amazing. How did you move on?
Speculation about Randle Nix’s move has been driven by two factors: the rise of Obi Topping and the prospect of the Star’s takeover.
The Knicks chose Topping as their eighth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, likely midway through Randle’s season or in the 2021-22 season as their starting forward. In the meantime, Randle could perform well, provided he has a team pick for next season. The team that trades Randle gets his production and works with the expectation that the player he plays with at the Knicks will be who he is elsewhere for a season and a half if they choose this option.
The team’s president, Leon Rose, could offer a first-round draft pick and an attractive player on a rookie contract as the basis for a trade involving Randle. This is something they could justify, as it would allow them to raise more capital for a future blockbuster.
But just because you can justify your move doesn’t mean you have to. The reality is that the Knicks have a player to build around Julius Randle.
Whether it’s because Thibodeau trusts him to be an offensive linchpin or because Randle’s former assistant at Kentucky, Kenny Payne, who has joined Thibodeau’s coaching staff, has helped the Beast advance this season. Randle was selected to the 2014 lottery for one reason: he had the talent to stand out.
New York is about halfway through the season. Right now, the team knows what it has, including one of the NBA’s top scorers on the court. Yes, Randle’s play creates challenges for the Knicks with Topping, but that can be revisited in the offseason. At the same time, they need to play hard with what is in the building and try to qualify for the playoffs.
Julius Randle is only 26 years old. It’s not like he’s a veteran of the end of his career. The Knicks have a player at the top of his game, as well as a core group of young stars like Barrett, Robinson and Quickley.
Instead of moving Randle, the Knicks could add a backyard/impact wing attacker this season (Victor Oladipo?) to play alongside Barrett and help Randle score. They also have two first round picks for the 2021 NBA Draft. These players could be rotation players, or they could be used in a draft trade if the Knicks have their eye on a particular player. These kickers could make it easier to trade a star for a player who could play alongside Randle.
Payton, Barrett, Maurice Harkless, Randle and Taj Gibson all played in the final game of the 2019-20 NBA season for the Knicks. Four of those players are still on the roster, and three of them are also in the top five under a new coach (Thibodeau took over from interim coach Mike Miller, who replaced David Fizdale midway through the season).
Of course, some of their youngsters move on to the next phase, and free agents Burks and Austin Rivers played their part in the Knicks’ game. Neither played a bigger role than Rivers’ rise to stardom.
Two months ago, there were few, if any, that played with Randle at this level. The Knicks were probably no exception. Randle’s emergence is not a burden, it is a blessing. He has greatly improved their roster, given them optimism and created more opportunities for the future. There is a full season left, and the Knicks should spend it with Randle in the lead.
Trading Julius Randle for the NBA deadline would be a serious sin.
Frequently asked questions
How did the Knicks get Julius Randle?
Randle was originally selected by the Lakers as the seventh pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. DESCRIPTION: Signed as a free agent on July 9, 2019.
Who did the Knicks trade Morris for?
The Knicks trade Marcus Morris to the Clippers in the NBA. They trade the veteran to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Mo Harkless and the 2020 first round pick. This is part of a three-way deal that sends Wizards Isaiah Thomas to the Clippers in exchange for Jerome Robinson.
Is Julius Randle a good defender?
The team’s offense is .500. He leads the NBA in minutes per game. He is in the best shape of his career. He is positively contributing to the top 10 NBA defenses.