Why the Knicks giving Julius Randle a max contract is a mistake

Julius Randle, New York Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Julius Randle, New York Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Knicks
Julius Randle, New York Knicks. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Even before the opening tip of the New York Knicks’ final game of the 2020-2021 season – game 5 of the Eastern Conference 1st round matchup against the visiting Atlanta Hawks – the mindset of Knicks fans and media had shifted to the offseason and the looming decision their front office had to make regarding the future of Julius Randle.

Randle, who is eligible for an early extension and was garnering consideration for possible max money after a borderline MVP-caliber season, capped a career year by being named the NBA’s M.I.P. (Most Improved Player). But doesn’t that seem like eons ago now? During the postseason, it seemed like Randle was vying for a twisted version of the M.I.P. award: Missing in Playoffs.

New York Knicks: Randle’s shortcomings in the playoffs

The 7th year big man had a historically abysmal postseason. Sure, it was Randle’s 1st taste of the playoffs – as it was for teammate RJ Barrett, who had his own horrid start to the series – but the same can be said for Devin Booker, Ja Morant, Trae Young, Deandre Ayton, and Dillon Brooks, all of whom are younger than Randle and all of whom excelled when the lights shined the brightest during the playoffs.

By comparison, Knicks castoff Kristaps Porzingis averaged nearly 24 points on 53% shooting for Dallas through 3 games last season in his playoff debut before missing the final 3 games of the Mavericks-Clippers series due to injury. Porzingis and Randle play virtually the same position and were often compared to each other during the last 2 seasons.

Randle finished the playoffs with a 29.8% FG clip and averaged 4 turnovers a game, highlighted by an 8 TO showing in game 5. He missed 66 of 94 shot attempts. He ended up averaging 18 points for the series but the bulk of those came in garbage time. And lest we forget, he was the only player in the series who was named to this season’s All-Star Team.

All of this begs the question: does Randle deserve a max extension?

The answer: a resounding NO. At least not yet.