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 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

New York Knicks: Julius Randle’s contract value

Do you know what Bam Adebayo, Ben Simmons, CJ McCollum, Kris Middleton, Tobias Harris, Andrew Wiggins, Gordon Hayward, Jrue Holiday, John Wall, Mike Conley, Al Horford, Andre Drummond and Pascal Siakam have in common? All entered this past season having secured max or near-max contracts, with minimum average salaries of $30 million per year.

But do you also know what virtually all of those players’ teams think about those contracts in retrospect? You can be sure that most of them prefer mulligans.

Yes, the argument can be made that a max salary doesn’t mean All-NBA player, All-Time player, or out-of-this-world player. Many teams – like the Bucks and the 76ers, both considered NBA title contenders entering this season – have three players on their roster with max contracts. Does anyone expect Middleton (5-year, $178 million pact in 2019) or Harris (5 years, $180 million in 2019)  to lead their respective teams to a championship? No. Chris Bosh was a max player, and Kevin Love is a max player. Both of those guys deferred to LeBron on title-winning teams.

And due to the state of affairs and recent history in New York, the thinking is that the Knicks may have no choice but to pay Randle like a max player. This still holds true, despite noise to the contrary. The Knicks still are not a free-agent destination and that’s ok. It takes time to build these things. Eventually – and ideally – the Knicks will attract an elite player who will come lead them to the promised land, someone who Randle can compliment. But that should have no bearing on whether they pay Randle max money or not.

Take the list of the aforementioned max players, throw Randle onto the list and ask an NBA General Manager to rank them in order of players he’d want to lead his team. Not sure Randle would be near the top of that list.

Randle has indeed earned another contract with the Knicks. But it is not yet time to show this man the money. The Knicks have to eventually set a precedent that will put prospective Knicks free-agent signings on notice: come shine under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, and we will pay you. But Randle is not the player to set that precedent with.

Randle is currently eligible for a four-year, $106 million extension through the 2025-26 season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The rules of NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) cap the number because it will only be the second anniversary of Randle’s signing of the contract.

But expect Randle’s agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Aaron Mintz, to likely encourage his client to wait until next summer, when there are less restrictions on how much money Randle can make, and also when any team can vie for his services.

For both Randle’s sake, as well as the Knicks’, any contract negotiations for Randle should be tabled for another season. The New York Knicks have him under contract for one more season (a team option), and they should wait to see if this past season was an anomaly or a reflection of who Randle really is as a player.

There are a few key variables that should be closely examined by the New York Knicks, and their impact can all be gauged in the upcoming season.