7 Knicks free agent targets with ties to Julius Randle

Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images /
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The New York Knicks had a great season, winning six games in the playoffs and proving they have a genuine star in Jalen Brunson and a great supporting cast. They enter free agency hoping to upgrade on what is already a formidable team.

One potential way to bring in free agents is to use relationships that already exist. Julius Randle has a lot of former teammates around the league, including a number of players who are free agents this summer.

What former teammates of Randle’s are candidates for the Knicks to sign? Let’s walk through seven, with the understanding that many of these don’t seem likely due to positional fit or cost, but NBA teams make weird things happen all of the time. Last summer they didn’t have cap space and opened up enough to sign Jalen Brunson.

One obvious caveat is that Julius Randle had a tough go of it in the playoffs, with a couple of good games surrounded by duds. If the Knicks decide to move on from him, then his connection to former teammates does the team no good.

So for now, let’s assume Randle is sticking around. Who is on the list? We start with an unlikely target who would be returning not just to Randle’s side but to the Big Apple.

Knicks Free Agent Target No. 7: Dennis Smith Jr., Guard

Dennis Smith Jr. was supposed to be an explosive offensive force when he came into the league; many draft analysts and writers, including myself, had him ranked as a top-five player in the 2017 NBA Draft Class (I’ll take credit for having Jayson Tatum first and ignore the fact that I had Donovan Mitchell ranked in the 20s). Smith never capitalized on that offensive upside, stumbling to start his career in Dallas before joining the Knicks as part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal.

Smith bounced around the league over the past few seasons, but suddenly this year he found his niche in the league. He has translated his still-impressive athleticism onto the defensive end, where he became a lockdown perimeter defender for the Charlotte Hornets while having the best passing season of his career as a lower-usage facilitator at point guard.

Smith and Randle played together for one season on the Knicks, and this offseason New York is likely in the market for another point guard in case the team moves on from Immanuel Quickley one way or the other. Smith has chemistry with multiple players still on the roster, and his newfound defensive acumen will play great with head coach Tom Thibodeau.