Knicks should explore trading Julius Randle even if Donovan Mitchell stays with Jazz

Julius Randle, New York Knicks (Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
Julius Randle, New York Knicks (Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports) /

With Jalen Brunson signing a four-year, $104 million contract, it’s time for the New York Knicks to shop Julius Randle around to other teams.

After having a career year in 2020-21 where he led the Knicks to their first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season, Randle regressed and showed why he can’t be a number one player for a team that has championship aspirations.

It’d be in the Knicks’ best interest to part ways with Julius Randle and his contract

One glaring spot in Randle’s game that saw a significant drop-off was his three-point percentage. While it seemed like nothing could go wrong for Randle and New York in 2020-21, where he was hitting clutch shot after clutch shot, his three-point percentage dropped from 41.1% in 2021 to 30.8% this past year.

Now that Brunson is on the team, the Knicks currently have three guys in the starting lineup that need the ball to be productive to impact the game. And if New York trades for Donovan Mitchell, that’d only increase the need for a Randle trade.

With RJ Barrett taking a leap this past season, the offense will not revolve around Randle. Instead, he’ll likely be a spot-up shooter now that the Knicks have an established point guard.

With Randle likely having to take a back seat this upcoming year, it’s best for the Knicks to call around to teams to see what his value is. Randle becoming a spot-up shooter isn’t his strength nor would it be the best option for the team.

Having three starters that need the ball to be effective is a recipe for disaster because it makes it easier for the defense to guard since they know hero ball will be going down during crunch time.

This will result in there being minimal ball movement and a low percentage shot down the stretch with less than five seconds on the shot clock. Too many times this was the case last year for New York, which is why the Knicks had a record of 7-45 in games decided by five points or less.

If Randle wants to have a future in New York, then he’s going to need to embrace being the second option to Barrett, who will be the primary ball handler alongside Brunson.

For Barrett to become an All-Star next year, he needs to be handed the keys so that he can grow and evolve.

Randle’s not going to be that guy who’s going to constantly be able to shoot 20 times a night with Brunson on the team, so Randle would need to impact the game in other ways such as rebounding and setting up teammates when his shot isn’t falling.

However, Randle making these sacrifices doesn’t seem reasonable entering his ninth year in the league.

It will be easier for teams to guard the Knicks with Brunson, Randle, and Barrett because their offensive philosophy wouldn’t revolve around moving the ball side to side and setting multiple screens off the ball.

Most of their offense would come from one-on-one basketball and the Knicks need less of that if they want to become a consistent playoff team in the future. In the 2021-2022 season, New York ranked last among assists in the league with 1,793, averaging 21.9 per game

When Randle was shut down at the end of the year after the team was eliminated from playoff contention, Obi Toppin finally got consistent playing time where he was playing close to starter minutes on a regular basis.

Toppin is a good fit around Barrett because he’s not someone who needs the ball to be productive and can be part of the solution in fixing the Knicks’ assists problems because he’s at his best when he’s in transition.

Unlike Randle, Toppin has the ability to get the Knicks easy fast break baskets while also changing the momentum simultaneously because the crowd explodes at MSG when he dunks or makes a highlight play.

Moving on from Randle would allow New York to be able to see if Toppin can be a key piece going forward because Tom Thibodeau likely would allow him to make more mistakes. It would also allow the Knicks to determine if he’s part of the future because he’s extension eligible next year.

If Randle plays with New York this year and beyond, then the team will never likely get to see what Toppin’s ceiling is going to be because Thibodeau doesn’t like playing him alongside Randle. As a result, Toppin’s opportunities to showcase his talents will always be limited as long as Randle remains on the team.

Because Randle is signed through 2026 with a four-year contract worth $117 million, the Knicks should look to trade him to a contender who believes they can win a championship with him being their second option.

New York’s philosophy should be to surround Barrett and Brunson with shooters to allow for them to flourish on the offensive end. It’s important that the Knicks maximize Barrett and Brunson’s potential by giving them the best opportunity to be successful.

What the Knicks will likely do is start the year off with Randle to see how the group works together, but they should be willing to listen to offers from other teams because currently, the roster is nowhere near becoming a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference.