Julius Randle is a contention point for New York Knicks fans heading into the off-season.
On one side of the fence, you have a large contingent who want to see Randle find a new team after a contentious season in Maddison Square Garden, while on the other, there is a group of fans preaching patience, pointing to Randle’s success the year prior as a potential indicator of what’s to come.
Still, after the impressive growth of RJ Barett and Obi Toppin towards the end of the year, the Knicks could look to revamp their roster this summer. According to one Eastern Conference executive, who spoke to Heavy.com under the condition of anonymity, New York could engage in trade talks to land them a former free-agency target in return for Randle and Walker’s departure.
“This is obviously a low point in value for Julius Randle and it is tough to trade a guy when that is the case. And the Knicks have been saying they want to keep him, they’re going to keep building around him, which is probably the right thing to say at this point. But it won’t take much to convince them to move him. They have a couple of problems, and so you need to find another team that is looking to move off a problem and they can do that with Charlotte if they take back Gordon Hayward.
You can send Randle and Kemba Walker, get him back home, and take back Hayward and it is a respectable deal for everyone involved. The Knicks get back a star-caliber player, they get rid of Kemba’s contract. The team has had an interest in Hayward before, though that was before Leon (Rose) came on. The Hornets get a presence inside, but you’d have to work to get him to fit with LaMelo,” The executive said.
Hayward Comes With Injury Concerns
When Gordon Hayward entered free agency following his spell with the Boston Celtics, the Knicks were rumored to be players in the battle for his signature. However, the Indiana native ended up signing a four-year $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets.
Unfortunately, Hayward has continued to struggle with injury issues since leaving Boston and has only participated in 93 games over the last two seasons. When Hayward is healthy, he’s everything you need out of a secondary star, the 32-year-old can score across all three levels, initiate the offense, and defend at a high level. But availability is the best ability, and the former 9th overall pick is no longer a guaranteed starter.
New York has already dealt with their fair share of injury-prone veterans, with both Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose missing time this season, so the notion of moving for Hayward may not be well received. But, with fans eager to move on from Randle, the Butler alumn’s injury history may be a risk worth taking.
Still, when the former Utah Jazz standout is healthy and on his game, he is a high-level contributor, and could easily slot alongside Barrett and Toppin in a revamped starting five. Since joining the Hornets, Hayward is averaging 17.6 points, 3.8 assists, and 5.2 rebounds per game on 40.2% three-point shooting, and 46.6% from the field.
Contract Length Might Play a Part
Randle is set to begin the first year of a four-year $117 million extension next season, which has three years guaranteed and a player option for the final year. With the Knicks forward struggling throughout this past season, there are genuine concerns if the Texas native can live up to such a lofty price tag.
By trading for Hayward, the Knicks would move off the final year of Kemba Walker’s contract, while also shortening their commitment to the high-end money they handed Randle last season. Hayward has two years remaining on his current deal, and if he could find a stretch of health, would certainly be deserving of his current paycheck – but that’s a big if.
Of course, acquiring Hayward doesn’t mean he will stay in New York long-term. Should the multi-faceted wing stay healthy and somewhat rebuild his value, the Knicks could look to flip him around the trade deadline or during the 2023 off-season, when he will be on the final year of his deal.
Either way, the Knicks are staring down a four-year barrel with Randle, and by trading for Hayward, the front office gives themselves some wiggle room two years sooner – so depending on how you value New York’s 27-year-old forward, this might be a deal worth some legitimate consideration.