The Knicks are no longer locks to sign two superstars and suddenly be a competitor next season, but the front office must still fill out the roster and is reportedly considering a run at Julius Randle.
Randle, 24-years-young and coming off the best season of his career thus far, has officially decided not to opt in with the New Orleans Pelicans, who just traded Anthony Davis for a bunch of his former Los Angeles Lakers teammates plus a bundle of draft picks. Instead, Randle will enter unrestricted free agency in two weeks, meaning the Knicks and every other NBA team will have a shot to nab the 6’9”, 250-pound monster.
Pelicans‘ Julius Randle is not picking up his $9M player option for next season and will enter unrestricted free agency, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Randle is coming off his best NBA season (21.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 34.4 percent from 3-point range on 195 attempts).— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 17, 2019
That the Knicks might be interested in Randle was first reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post, who buried the team’s potential desire to land him at the very bottom of this piece on why the Knicks decided not to push all their assets to the center of the table in order to try and land AD.
Berman’s report was backed up by SNY’s Ian Begley, who noted the following in a story of his own:
“If the stars don’t align for the Knicks, Mills could take his $74 million in cap space and try one-year deals with some of the better free agents. Or in a long-term deal, pursue former Laker and Pelican Julius Randle, whom they like, or take a flier on former No. 2 pick Jabari Parker, who has been an injury-riddled bust.”
Frankly, that’s all the meat there is on this bone at the moment. We know the Knicks like Randle. And what’s not to like? Since taking the phrase “break a leg” way too literally mere moments into his rookie season, Randle has steadily progressed each year, and today is a menacing force down low whose big body allows him to bruise with the best of them.
However, Randle is probably expecting to snag a pretty heft contract — one that would pay him far more than the $9 million he would have received by opting in with the Pelicans — which means the Knicks have to decide what they’re willing to offer him. Chances are slim that he’d take a one-year deal, regardless of how much money was offered. Thus, the Knicks would likely need to give Randle a multi-year contract, something that would only make sense if the front office believes in him as a key cog for the future of the team.
The thought of putting Randle at the power forward position next to future All-Defensive stud Mitchell Robinson is a nice one. Theoretically, the duo could complement each other well. Randle is not particularly long, while Robinson is one of the lengthiest players possible. Randle gets buckets, while Robinson is still working on his bucket-getting abilities (right now his go-to moves are dunking an alley-oop or dunking off an offensive rebound). Randle is beefy, but in a strong way as opposed to an Eddy Curry way, while Robinson is skinnier than Gumby.
This summer was supposed to see the Knicks sign stars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and/or Kawhi Leonard, but it’s starting to become clear that was a mirage all along. In the real world, the next tier of players are a better bet to be the ones who become Knicks. Randle, who despite having a fantastic season last year is still not necessarily viewed as a sure star, sits in that tier. But he’ll still be expensive.
Gut instinct says there’s some other team out there that’ll be willing to give Randle the years and money he wants. And if that happens, hopefully the Knicks don’t take a big swing on someone else who isn’t a sure thing, just so they can say they made a splash in free agency.
Scott Perry and Steve Mills have maintained that they won’t do that, but all of the team’s free agency plans seem to be sputtering like Emmanuel Mudiay on a wild drive towards the hoop with his head down. We’ll soon see whether Perry and Mills are men of their word, and if they are, what that means for the near-term future of the Knicks.