2 Possible Trade Destinations for Knicks Star Julius Randle

Julius Randle, New York Knicks

Getty Julius Randle of the New York Knicks posts up against Cody Martin of the Charlotte Hornets.

The New York Knicks struck out on acquiring offseason dream target Donovan Mitchell, as NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported on September 1 that the Cleveland Cavaliers had ultimately won the star guard sweepstakes, acquiring him from Utah in exchange for a package headlined by Collin Sexton and three first-round picks.

Now, while this failed pursuit of the Jazz guard is widely perceived as a “massive failure”, there is still a chance that the franchise could wind up coming away from this offseason as a success story.

Said way: trade power forward Julius Randle.

Though an All-Star and All-NBA selectee two seasons ago, 2021-22 proved to be a true whirlwind for the 27-year-old, as he took a step back in numerous statistical areas and, simply, failed to live up to expectations that came after his individual successes in 2020-21.

Having said that, even with this “down year,” Randle still went on to put up solid averages, posting 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. The only other players who exceeded those averages in each category last season were Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With this, it’s evident that despite his specific inefficiencies (shot just 41.1% from the floor and 30.8% from deep), the big man certainly possesses some high-end qualities that, though may be viewed as expendable for the Knicks, could be nice complements for other ball clubs, and there are two, in specific, that could be deemed as possible landings spots for Julius Randle should he be dealt.

Lakers ‘Would Not Mind’ Knicks Star

During the times of heavy Donovan Mitchell trade negotiations between the Knicks and Jazz, NBA Insider Marc Stein reported during a Spotify live session on July 30 that the Los Angeles Lakers “could be interested in reuniting” with their 2014 lottery pick, Julius Randle, if the franchise were to successfully land the star guard.

During the session, Stein also reported that, according to a source, L.A. wouldn’t mind taking on his long-term contract of four years, $117 million

Now, though Mitchell obviously did not end up in New York, should these reports be true, perhaps Randle could still be of some interest to them in a trade, especially considering the fact that they have their own lofty contract that they’ve been trying to offload for quite some time.

Should the Knicks be willing to take on Russell Westbrook and his enormous 2022-23 payday of $47 (which expires after this season), Leon Rose and company could then flip Randle and his remaining years under contract to the Lakers.

From there, New York could either keep the former MVP moving forward, only to try and flip him prior to the trade deadline or, perhaps more likely, they could waive him soon after his arrival.

The Lakers, on the other hand, would get another star-caliber player to try and help jazz up the team’s championship-aspiring roster and could even snag a much-needed floor spacer like Evan Fournier (career 38.1% shooter from deep) to help try and improve the team’s shooting efficiency that ranked just 22nd in three-point percentage.

Charlotte Deemed a ‘Plan B’ Option

On August 20, an anonymous NBA executive spoke with Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney about some possible “Plan B” ideas that New York could have at the ready should they not land Donovan Mitchell.

In these discussions, they brought up how a pursuit of Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward could be a possible option for the Knicks to consider, as the veteran has seemingly been an alternative option for many other star-chasing ball clubs across the association this summer.

“I think a lot of teams have considered Gordon Hayward a Plan B if they can’t get Mitchell or Durant. The Hornets have taken calls on him but they’re still figuring out what to do about him, about the Miles Bridges stuff, what direction they’re taking,” the executive said.

The executive would then go on to state that though there has been no word on whether the Knicks have shown any interest in the forward, he could actually prove to be a solid fit with their core group.

“He’d be good with what the Knicks have, with Brunson and R.J. Barrett, a bigger guy who can be a ballhandler. If he can stay healthy.”

Clearly, with Mitchell now in Cleveland, it’s “Plan B” time for New York, and considering the franchise strongly pursued Hayward back during the 2020 free agency period, there could be a possibility that they’d be willing to finally acquire his services, especially if it means exchanging Randle in the process.

While he may be labeled as “injury prone,” as he’s played in over 52 games just once since his 2016-17 All-Star campaign, the forward is a high-end talent when on the floor and, since signing with Charlotte back in November of 2020, has boasted impressive per-game averages of 17.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 steals on 46.6% shooting from the floor and 40.2% shooting from deep.

The Knicks could certainly stand to benefit from this type of production, particularly when it comes to his scoring abilities and ball-handling skills. However, should he succumb to nagging injuries once again, New York would only be committed to him through the end of next season, where he’s slated to hit unrestricted free agency.

As for the Hornets, they’re viewed as an up-and-coming team with playoff aspirations after just knocking on the door with a 43-39, 10 seed finish to 2021-22. Led by 21-year-old All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball, it’s evident that this youthful club could use some veteran experience, as the average age of their current roster is 24.5, making them the eighth youngest team in the league.

Julius Randle, an eight-year veteran, could be viewed as that type of individual for this team and simultaneously would be helping them fill a clear vacancy at starting power forward along the way.

With his addition, Charlotte would be adding a 20-plus point per game scorer from over the last five seasons into their already impressive rotation while essentially “buying-low” on a player who, just two seasons ago, was deemed the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

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