There have been several surprises this year in the NBA. One of those surprises is the early “success” from the New York Knicks. The driving force behind this on the court is the leadership and great play of Julius Randle. With Randle playing at such an all-star level the question is, is it time for the Knicks to trade their best player?
The Jump From Last Season
Julius Randle was not what he was expected to be last year, to say the least. In his first year with the Knicks in the 2019-2020 season, Randle averaged 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. On top of this, he was shooting 46% from the field and just 27.7% from three. The complaints about Randle were that he couldn’t see the floor to get his teammates better opportunities to score or the classic spin into double-teams in the paint causing a turnover. Most people were worried that his play would hinder the development of number three overall pick R.J. Barrett.
The desire for fans to trade Julius Randle only grew when the team selected forward Obi Toppin with the 8th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Now the concern was that Randle would take away valuable minutes from the rookie.
Since then, the Julius Randle trade train suddenly stopped. Through the first 26 games of the season, he has had his best season in the NBA to date. Randle is playing at an all-star level averaging 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. His shot percentages have also gone up, shooting 47.5% from the field and 39.6% from three.
Randle’s biggest improvement however is his ability to get his teammates involved. His assist percentage is up to 27.2% this season. That is nearly double the 15.8% from last season.
Most people would give the credit to head coach Tom Thibodeau. When the Knicks signed Julius Randle last season, they believed that the ability to play like an all-star level was there. The team may have just had the wrong man in control. Coach Thibodeau is well respected around the league and he seems to have unlocked Randle’s true potential.
Trading Away Randle
If the New York Knicks were to trade Julius Randle, there are two ways to go about it. You could trade him at the trade deadline or trade him in the offseason. Each option has its pros and cons.
Trading Randle at the trade deadline is when his value would be at its highest. The deadline is a time where contending teams are looking for any way possible to upgrade their team. Randle would be a substantial upgrade for most teams trying to compete for a championship.
The other option the Knicks would have is trading him during the offseason. In the offseason, however, his trade value won’t be as high. At that point, teams are no longer throwing everything they can to try and land him. There is still a chance you could get valuable pieces out of a deal in the offseason but it would be a lot harder to do so. Randle would be on an expiring contract which means that teams will be less likely to throw anything valuable for him.
There have also been rumors of the Knicks potentially going after other stars instead of draft compensation, such as Zach Lavine and Bradley Beal. Trying to trade for either one of these stars would cost the New York Knicks heavy. More than likely, Randle would be involved in one of these trades.
Keeping Julius Randle
If the Knicks do not want to trade Randle away or if they don’t find anything worth trading him for, keeping him on the roster is not a bad option either.
At this point in the season, it is clear that Randle will continue his high-level play until the end of the season. There is a big enough sample size for the season to show that he can maintain this level. If he can continue to play like this you can’t help but think, why not just make him a building block for the next couple of years? R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle are the go-to guys for the offense and they have finally learned how to play with each other at a high level. They feed off of each other’s offense and it shows.
The three-man line-up of R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle, and Immanuel Quickley has a net rating of 15.3 in 115 minutes together this season. Along with young big man Mitchell Robinson, this can be the core the Knicks have been looking for. With these young pieces and with the guidance of Coach Thibodeau, New York basketball can be well on its way back to the top of the NBA.
Regardless of what happens, Julius Randle has proven that he can play at an all-star caliber level and can adapt to whoever is around him to find a way to win.