The New York Knicks were well on their way to a feel-good win against the Miami Heat, their storied rivals who eliminated them from the playoffs last year. This would be New York’s sixth win in a row, and the Garden was rocking. The deal that brought OG Anunoby to New York was already paying dividends, and after beating the Denver Nuggets (reigning champions) by 40, the Knicks followed themselves up with another impressive performance on national television. Things couldn’t be better.
Then, with 4:27 left, disaster struck.
With the Knicks already up big, Julius Randle went up strong for a layup and was fouled by Jamie Jaquez Jr. Randle awkwardly braced his fall with his shoulder. When one of the toughest players in the NBA immediately checks himself out and runs to the locker room, you know there’s an issue.
Since then, we’ve learned that the Knicks are calling it a dislocated right shoulder. Oddly enough, the franchise has been mum on an official timetable or any further details describing the severity, which is either really good or really bad.
How does the front office respond?
Here are four options the Knicks could look at to replace the all-NBA player in the short term.
Bruce Brown Jr. (Toronto Raptors)
Bruce Brown might not necessarily be a PF. But he offers the versatility and toughness (a la Josh Hart) that Tom Thibodeau is enthralled with that could eventually make him a New York Knick.
Brown was traded to the Raptors as part of the return for Pascal Siakam, but he is best suited playing a role on a championship-caliber team. He did it for the Nuggets last year and earned himself a ring, playing 26.5 MPG in a huge sixth-man role for Denver. He’s that kind of guy.
This year, he’s listed as a PG/SG/SF, and is averaging 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He’s playing exceptional defense, and shoots 47% from the floor with a serviceable three point stroke.
Beat reporter Ian Begley mentioned him last night as a name that the Knicks have been monitoring for a while, and the Randle injury could perhaps be a catalyst to get a deal done. That being said - the Knicks already have a notorious logjam of depth at the wing, and Brown’s skillset could be redundant alongside Josh Hart.
Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
Harrison Barnes is 31 years old already, far removed from his starting role with the Warriors’ big three back in the day. He’s been a King for six years already, but rumors are swirling that his time in Sacramento may be up before the trade deadline passes.
The Kings must have been happy, then, to see Barnes post a career high 39 points in year 11 of action this past Thursday night.
The stats this year are solid, but not eye popping: he’s averaging 11.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. He’s also shooting a career-high 41.6% from downtown. Barnes is averaging his fewest points, rebounds, and assists since 2014-15, but his efficiency is up. Unfortunately, his game is very up-and-down, and the Kings’ front office seems prepared to move on.
New York could turn to Barnes, a 6’8” forward, as an offensive buoy while Randle is out. He provides height at the 3/4, something the Knicks have none of behind Randle, and a winning pedigree. While not the player he once was, Harrison Barnes is still a playoff rotation guy.
Kelly Olynyk (Utah Jazz)
Let’s get a little cute here. Kelly Olynyk is one of the best playmaking power forwards in the NBA right now. Yup. You read that right.
Olynyk is the third-highest non-guard in assists per 36 right now in the league, behind only Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis. The Utah Jazz have been rumored to be shopping him. And he could be the Randle replacement (or backup) that the Knicks are looking for.
This year, he’s averaging 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game in only 20.6 minutes of action (!!). The former Celtics playoff hero is 32 years old, but could still offer a playmaking big solution that the Knicks could use off of their bench. He shoots a career 37% from three, stretches the floor, and makes timely passes.
A non-traditional 4 or 5 is another thing the Knicks’ roster lacks, and Olynyk could be a cheap and cost-efficient answer.
Jacob Toppin (Westchester Knicks)
Option number four is an in-house solution. Jacob Toppin is only 23 years old, and is playing well in the G-League for the Westchester Knicks. Toppin is averaging 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He’s another serviceable three-point shooter, but makes his living off of his athleticism, getting to the rim at will.
Perhaps the Knicks give the kid his shot now - the timing is as good as ever. Coach Thibodeau is usually reluctant to play younger players big minutes until their trust is earned, but it could be time for a cup of coffee.
Whether the Knicks make a move or not, Randle’s absence will surely take a toll on the entire Knicks’ rotation. The coming days and weeks will show us how much.
Is one of the players mentioned in the article the right path to pursue? Do you have someone else in mind? Or should the Knicks stand pat altogether? Let us know in the comments section below!