Is Julius Randle Tradable?
A look at the trade landscape for New York's big man
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In his column yesterday, Marc Berman of the New York Post had a few interesting lines regarding the men virtually tied for the Knicks team lead in points per game.
After noting that “the Knicks have to decide by the Feb. 6 trade deadline whether Morris and Randle are the forwards they want to build around,” he added the following:
The Knicks have received interest from teams on both players. Trading Randle would open more leeway to make the resurgent Morris a building block for the future. But Morris is 30. Randle is just 25 but has holes in his game.
Berman catches a lot of grief from fans, but he also doesn’t put things like this into his column by accident. It’s not hard to see other teams at least kicking the Knicks’ tires on Randle. This (maybe) confirms that New York’s brass hasn’t been hanging up the phone.
I’m not going to get too deep into whether the Randle/Morris tandem is or should be feasible for the long term. For our purposes today, let’s agree that it’s tough to see a world where the Knicks trade both of these dudes, and how can we make the best of that world.
The obvious question is whether moving Randle instead of Morris might actually make more sense. From a basketball perspective, it’s an easy argument. Morris spaces the floor and defends in ways Randle simply doesn’t. His locker room presence, age, and pending free agency are also all obvious factors, as is the return New York would get in exchange for him vs his frontcourt partner.
Full disclosure on Julius: I have a tough time assessing what his trade value really is. For starters, as anyone who has watched the team this year can confirm, his numbers don’t always translate to winning basketball.
Let’s begin with the fact that Randle is somewhat of an anomaly in the modern game (sorry Clarence, but I think the term applies here). He’s a big man who offers no rim protection (he has fewer blocked shots this season than Elfrid Payton…who has played in 16 fewer games…and is a guard) and can’t shoot (he’s at 29 percent from deep overall, and 32 percent since his horrific first seven games, almost exclusively on open looks). He also isn’t a lob threat, and needs the ball to do any damage. His defensive intensity at times can, umm… “leave a bit to be desired,” I think is putting it kindly.
He’s also been the best player on the roster since Mike Miller became coach and started using Randle properly (or as properly as someone with his skill set can be used). Since December 6, the Knicks are getting outscored by 2.5 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court and 9.8 when he’s off, which is easily the biggest gap on the team. His 20/10/3 stat line over that span has been matched only by Giannis, Embiid and Nikola Vucevic.
But that just means he’s the best player on a bad team, which is a far cry from someone who can help a good one, especially a good one that doesn’t want to rejigger its entire offense to accomodate his unique talents. There’s a reason the above three names are signed to nine figure deals, whereas Randle was available for essentially a two-year pact (reminder that the final year on his contract is guaranteed for only $4 million).
It’s tough to find a contender who might think that Randle could be the missing piece to their championship puzzle, let alone one with the requisite salary and/or assets to complete a deal, which gets us into the other, perhaps more difficult part of an possible Randle trade.
The Knicks front office, quite clearly, wants to make moves that can help improve the team in the short term and the long term. They don’t seem to be of the mentality that acquiring assets whose fruit won’t be born for years down the line is the way to go.
But they also fancy New York as a destination for the next disgruntled star. Getting a draft pick for Randle that might not convey for several years may not have much desire to Scott Perry and Steve Mills directly, but they could find it appealing as yet another asset in some theoretical deal that could become available this summer, assuming they’re still employed by then (which is another complication in all of this).
With all of this as the backdrop, here are a few teams I came up with that could conceivably be in the market for Randle’s services, as well as what the Knicks would ideally want back in return:
I’m putting them at the top in the hopes that my doing so will somehow make it more likely to happen, because boy oh boy, are there reasons it shouldn’t.
The ask here would be Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is now a little more than five months away from restricted free agency and a massive, massive payday, what with the weak summer market that lies ahead. The Kings are also going to be able to offer D’Aaron Fox an extension this summer, and there’s a chance they aren’t keen on spending roughly half of their salary cap on three backcourt players (Buddy Hield’s extension kicks in this year).
That also doesn’t mean they’re just going to give Bogey away to the highest bidder. If they don’t get an offer they deem worthy, they can just hang onto him and either attempt to work out a sign and trade or simply re-sign him at a number they think is movable.
There would also likely be a long line of bidders, as Bogdanovic is really freaking good. He gives you scoring, playmaking, and shooting (37.6 percent from deep on nearly seven attempts per game). But his price tag in July might scare off some teams from going all in, as the option of simply overpaying him for his services in cash rather than assets and cash looms as the more desirable of the two.
There’s also the small matter of the Kings being loaded in the front court. They’re currently starting sharpshooting Nemanja Bjelica at the four with Marvin Bagley III filling in at center while Richaun Holmes recovers from injury.
Even if the Kings were willing to remove Bjelica’s shooting from the starting five in favor of a bigger name, Randle makes about as much sense next to Bagley or Holmes as he does with Mitchell Robinson, which is to say “not much.”
But hey…you never know. This is the same organization that traded for Harrison Barnes and then rewarded him with a nine figure contract to be their starting small forward. Like Barnes, Randle is a name. Crazier shit has happened.
Justin Jackson - the main asset in the Barnes trade - is also in a different stratosphere as a trade chip than Bogdanovic. The Knicks would be taking on the remaining two years of Dewayne Dedmon’s contract, although he’s only guaranteed $1 million in 2021-22. But that’s only a start. The Kings would certainly ask for a pick in the deal, if not a pick and a young player.
Do they have any interest in trying to resuscitate Dennis Smith Jr’s career? If the answer was yes, maybe DSJ and the Mavs’ top-ten protected 2023 pick would start a conversation. Sacramento would presumably counter with Kevin Knox and the unprotected Dallas 2021 pick.
Would the teams compromise on a little from Column A and a little from Column B? Should they? Scott Perry obviously has a relationships with Vlade Divac, so maybe this one has some legs.
As for other possible deals…
Julius Randle & Wayne Ellington for James Johnson & Dion Waiters and…
What would the Heat be willing to give up for the right to upgrade from Johnson to Randle and save themselves about $10 million next season in the process?
Keep dreaming about any of their key young pieces. The next first rounder they can trade famously can’t convey until 2025 at the earliest, and based on existing protections, may need to be written as “if not conveyed by 2027, will instead convert to two second rounders” in any deal.
This doesn’t feel like the deal the Heat would cash in that chip for, nor do I think the Knicks would take on this much salary for next season.
Lauri Markkanen & Cristiano Felicio for Julius Randle &…
In my dreams, I know.
Maybe the Bulls would consider moving Lauri (I wrote about him as a Knick target a few weeks back), but who knows what the asking price would be on top of Randle?
It might be similar to a Kings situation, where the Bulls would ask for a better pick/young player combo than the Knicks would be willing to give. The benefit here is that unlike Bogey, Lauri doesn’t hit restricted free agency until the summer of 2021.
That also means the Bulls’ asking price will be higher. There’s also no guarantee Chicago wants anything to do with Randle (although this is the team that matched an offer sheet on Zach LaVine, so you never know).
There’s a ton of workable deals with the Hornets for players that aren’t a big part of Charlotte’s rotation.
The questions here are whether they’d go for Randle (my guess is yes, given their history) and what they’d give up. A first rounder would seem to be off the table unless the Knicks added more salary to the package (Ellington, most likely) and took on Nic Batum and his $27 million player option for next season.
Randle/Wayne for Batum and a 2020 top-four protected first rounder, perhaps? What then happens on the off chance the pick doesn’t convey this year? Would the Knicks also ask for Malik Monk in the trade?
Lots of uncertainty, but I wouldn’t rule this one out. And finally, for shits and giggles…
Julius Randle for Courtney Lee and Justin Jackson
Dallas trading for Randle to be KP’s backup - with the Knicks taking back Lee’s expiring contract - would be high comedy on multiple levels. I only mention it because Randle is from Dallas and might theoretically be amenable to not starting if it meant he got to go back home.
But there’s virtually no chance of this happening for multiple reasons. The Knicks already own two future Mavs picks, for starters. Plus, adding Randle as KP insurance theoretically torpedoes New York’s best case scenario, which is that Porzingis gets hurt and misses a large portion of next season, and the Dallas pick gets juicier in the process. Justin Jackson isn’t moving the needle enough to make this happen. RJ for Luka is also a possibility, as is my growing nine inches by tomorrow morning and throwing my name in the ring for the Knicks starting point guard job.
Dreams, folks…they make the world go ‘round.
That’s it. I don’t see any other team being even a remote possibility for Randle. If I’ve missed one, feel free to email me at KFSMailbag@gmail.com and I’ll bring it up on the pre-deadline Mailbag pod, coming soon to a pair of headphones near you.
More FREE PredictionStrike Stock!
Two weeks ago, the good folks over at PredictionStrike (the online DFS site that doubles as a stock market for your favorite players) agreed to give away one complementary share in a Knicks player that would be chosen by you, my readers.
Turns out, a lot of you like free shit.
Last time, you voted and RJ Barrett was the player of choice (that he has since gotten injured and remains out is purely a coincidence, and I take no responsibility whatsoever in this sad occurrence, so help me God.)
We’re going to run it back again, and tomorrow morning, a new Twitter poll will be up for you to pick your player of choice. Then on Friday, all new sign ups will be given a code right here to use when signing up for a new account, and said player will be yours, free of charge.
In the meantime, if yesterday’s “buy” advice on Kyle Kuzma wasn’t your cup of tea, how about the original fartin’ Superman, Dwight Howard? If the game gets out of hand tonight, you could see LeBron getting a kick out of setting up Howard to put on a show at the Garden. He’s trading at $13.09 a share, but his projection for tonight (18.8 points) is well below his season average (25.2) thanks to a recent stretch of poor games.
If you think he’s due for a bounce back, might as well get in now.
News & Notes
Great look by Drew Steele of Posting & Toasting at Elfrid Payton and whether he deserves as much crap from Knick fans as he seems to get. Definitely worth checking out.
Also, here’s Vivek Dadhania on the day Lenny Wilkins resigned.
That’s it for today…see everyone tomorrow, hopefully after an upset win!