Julius Randle had another incredible regular season before fading in the playoffs. Many Knicks fans and NBA pundits are questioning his role on the team moving forward. The P&T staff weighs in...
Joe Flynn: Yes. Randle defenders will point to his ankle issues and try to explain away his poor play and attitude issues in the playoffs, but the truth is that Randle’s those issues were starting to come to the forefront before the original ankle injury. Watch those last 10-15 regular-season games, and see shades of 2021-22 Julius: the loafing around, yelling at the refs and teammates. Remember when he screamed at Immanuel Quickley for trying to stop him from going after a ref at halftime? The sad fact is that, for all his talent, he has never put together two great seasons in a row. What happens if we get another full-blown regression next season? Given his overall volatility, I think it makes sense to retool around Jalen Brunson and the kids.
Lee Escobedo: Sadly, yes. I really like Julius Randle as a person. But he has shown now through three playoff series he should not be built around as the first option. That role belongs to Jalen Brunson. Leon Rose needs to pivot from complementing Randle’s skill set to Brunson’s. That begins with finding a new home for Randle this summer so that we can extend and then start Obi Toppin. Randle’s stock is sky-high after being named All-NBA for the second time in three years. Rose should use this to his advantage to bring back shooting and playmaking in any trade. If the right trade doesn't present itself this summer, we should not sell low for the sake of moving him. Randle’s 25, 10, and four are a valuable commodity for teams looking for a third or fourth option. The Knicks need a second scoring option with a dependable three-ball. With many contenders falling short this playoffs, there should be no short supply of trade suitors. Once a Knick always a Knick is the mantra, and I will continue to root for Randle’s good fortune wherever he lands. But what’s best for the team comes first in my fandom, and it’s time to move on from Randle’s poor playoff performance, manic on-the-court episodes, and dour body language.
Kento Kato: It depends. I understand that this is a bit of a cop-out answer, but as is the case with a lot of things that involve the enigmatic Julius Randle, things are convoluted. In a vacuum, yes, it would be nice if the Knicks could move on from Randle and upgrade to a superstar that excels, not struggles, in the playoffs. A team with Jalen Brunson, this postseason’s version of RJ Barrett, and an elite postseason-performing player, complemented with some combination of Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, and Mitchell Robinson could be a serious contender. So if the Knicks can guarantee themselves a clear and significant upgrade, Randle should be on the table because we’ve seen now just how unpredictable and unreliable he tends to be in the playoffs. But as things currently stand, what are the realistic chances that the Knicks can find such a player, acquire them without giving up way too much, and ensure an actual improvement? Many would argue pretty low. Sure, there are big-name players out there like Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns, but the unfortunate truth is none of those guys really fix the Knicks’ weaknesses. Lillard would turn the Knicks' backcourt into a small, non-defending, ball-dominant one, just like the Portland ones from a few years ago, LaVine is both expensive and injury-prone, and Towns, as talented as he may be, has also dealt with injury problems and isn’t a proven elite playoff performer either. Randle is unarguably a frustrating player to watch and root for, but he’s still a damn good one at that. Players that average 25 PPG, 10 RPG, and 4 APG don’t grow on trees, so Randle must not be dumped or traded for the sake of it. Because at the end of the day, I’d much rather have a player that can co-lead a team to 47 wins and the playoffs, than a player that can’t. Randle’s playoff performance left and may continue to leave a lot to be desired, but give me disappointing playoff performances over sitting home and looking forward to the draft lottery with no games in May.
Miranda: Randle openly struggles with his mental health, helping to expand a meaningful conversation into places it’s not always been given voice. He cares more about his family than apparently anything, which is pretty easy on the eyes and heartstrings. He’s shown a degree of professional growth most didn’t think possible, taken a hit, dropped off, then shown resilience rising to the top again. His current contract will age well, with the cap to rise in light of the pending new media rights deals and the relentless rise of sports gambling revenues. Randle led the Knicks in points, rebounds, and assists twice, something no Knick had ever done once; after Brunson arrived — Randle’s first All-Star caliber teammate in New York — he moved more off-ball and streamlined a more efficient shot profile. He’s the only Knick ever to average 25, 10, and 4, or even 20/10/4. He’s played about 95% of the Knicks’ games since 2019, fought back ahead of schedule off a badly sprained ankle to put up 16 in the first half of the Knicks’ first playoff game, a win, then sprained it again a week later, fought back to play Game 2 against Miami and put up 25, 12, and eight — in a win. Go on. Trade him. Them cats a dime a dozen.
Russell Richardson: For the right return, sure. New York would be nuts to offload Julius Randle, right? An All-Star, All-NBA guy who averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists per game last season? But Julius fades away when needed most. Exhibits A & B: The 2020-21 and 2022-23 Playoffs... This year, New York’s big three (“mid three”) consisted of Jalen Brunson, Randle, and RJ Barrett. Brunson will attract stars to join him at MSG; Julius Randle will not. Barrett had a lackluster season but some positive post-season play redeemed him. Four years on, he and Julius have yet to harmonize on the hardwood. If one must go, I’d keep RJ. . . . Still, who will make up for Randle’s 20-25 points and 10 rebounds per game? Obi Toppin? I have doubts. There are free-agent power forwards coming to the market. Neither Jerami Grant, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, nor Kristaps Porzingis give me happy tingles. Cam Johnson’s shooting touch would open the floor on the offensive end and his defense wouldn’t be a big step down. But, meh. Kyle Kuzma? Strong meh. That leaves us to consider trades. Randle’s salary (base this year: $25,660,800) isn’t prohibitive, but what great forward will demand a trade? I doubt one emerges. Nope, I think we get another season of Julius Randle—at least until the midseason trade deadline.
Antonio Losada: We’re at a point in this conversation where everything about it feels so repetitive. Somebody mentioned the possibility of trading for Dame above, which is a player that I think found himself in a very similar position to that of Randle, or perhaps more, to where the Knicks’ brass finds itself when it comes to assessing Randle’s value and worthiness of keeping him around going forward (and for the past few seasons after his arrival in NYC). It took Portland nearly a decade to move on from CJ McCollum and break their good-not-great super-backcourt. I feel Randle and the Knicks are in for a similarly long and unproductive run. Randle wants to stay in New York, New York might or might not want to trade Randle but there is a growing feeling they wouldn’t oppose a move. The problem is that the fanbase calling for such a trade so loudly and the FO not really coming out denying all of those whispers is only going to notch his value down a bit. Someone putting up 25-10-4 daily stat lines is not a guy you just trade away for pennies on the dollar. Since Randle entered the league (2014-15), only five players have had more seasons with 19 PPG + 9 RPG averages. None of those would be traded away for as low a return as the one you expect for Randle, right? Randle might not have a viable path toward increasing his value anymore (he’s a preternatural regular-season superstar already) so I’d rather keep him around than go for a desperate change with potentially unwanted consequences. Even more, with Jalen Brunson around and being the real playmaker and leader of this team (read: removing the mad Iso-Randle calls from Thibs’ playbook) I’m not nearly unhappy with having Randle as the second- or third-best player of the squad depending on how (and how quickly) RJ Barrett’s developmental curve evolves. Retain Julius, keep pushing.
Jwiesel13: I think I would give it another season. I commend Randle for playing hurt in the playoffs and he had a great regular season. Since coming to the Knicks in 2019-20’, Randle has been a consistent 20-10 guy and averaged a career-high 25.1 points per game. For as good as he’s been in the regular season, the postseason hasn't been great. Julius averaged 16.6 points and 8.3 rebounds on 43.2 effective field goal shooting in the 2023 playoffs. For a player of his caliber, it was disappointing but also not the first time he’s struggled in the playoffs. Back in 2020-21’ Randle averaged 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds on 51.6 percent effective field goal shooting in the regular season. This was good enough to earn him his first All-Star appearance and All-NBA Second-Team honors. When it came time for postseason ball, those averages dipped to 18 points and 35.6 effective field goal shooting in the Knicks' five-game series loss to the Atlanta Hawks. When he looks good, he looks really good but when it’s bad, it’s...really bad. If the Knicks keep Randle, they will win a lot of regular-season games. I wouldn't mind holding onto Randle for another season and seeing if he can adapt his game properly in the playoffs. Maybe get some more supporting pieces and shooters to take pressure off him on the perimeter. If history repeats itself in the playoffs for a third time, it’s time to pull the plug.