As the playoffs continue to pass us by, the off-season is drawing near, and with it, the opportunity for the New York Knicks to fix some of their ailments.
There’s no question that the Knicks’ struggles this season were down to an imbalanced roster littered with non-impactful veterans. But of course, Julius Randle’s inability to replicate his performance levels from the previous season was also a significant contributing factor.
Knicks fans are disappointed with Randle, both for his nonchalant attitude on the floor and for how quickly the relationship between star player and fans broke down. It should come as no surprise then, that Randle is widely expected to be included in multiple trade discussions between now and the opening tip of the 2022-23 season.
Being mentioned in trade discussions and actually being included in a trade are two totally separate entities, and it’s quite possible that no team ponies up with an offer good enough to prise him away from Madison Square Garden.
However, one Eastern Conference executive, who spoke to Heavy.com under the condition of anonymity, believes there’s a clear trade to be made, and it would instantly solve New York’s need for a point guard.
“If the Lakers can get off of Westbrook’s contract, no matter who it is, they’re going to do it. They are not worried about the length of the contract at this point. They are not worrying about gumming up the books for the future, they’re worried about right now. If the Knicks are willing to take Westbrook and get rid of (Julius) Randle’s contract, the Lakers will do it. But the question is fit. Randle is another guy who needs the ball, it was not a great pairing having him and AD together when they were in New Orleans. Randle came off the bench, that is really the only way to make that work.
Would he do that for the Lakers? And the other thing is, can you get the Knicks to put Evan Fournier in that deal? He was up and down last year, he has a big contract, too. You’re taking on more than $100 million over four years with Randle and $40 million in the next two with Fournier. But they can’t worry about two, or three years from now. LeBron is 38. If you get Fournier plus Randle in a deal for Westbrook, sure the Lakers do that,” The executive told Heavy.
Westbrook Makes Sense for New York
Whenever Westbrook’s name surfaces in trade discussions, everybody’s mind goes straight to his colossal contact, and how it would hinder a team’s ability to continue improving via the free-agent market. And while that might be true, it’s worth noting that the upcoming season is the last year of Westbrook’s deal, after which, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
If the Knicks are truly over the Randle experiment and wish to align their books to create max cap space in the summer of 2023, then acquiring the Los Angeles Lakers guard via trade makes perfect sense. In essence, you’re giving the 33-year-old All-Star an opportunity to put himself in the shop window to earn himself another deal, which means you’re probably going to get the best version of Westbrook possible considering his age and the mileage already on the clock.
Most importantly, the front office would be ridding themselves of the potential four-year deal they handed to Randle before the current season began, that deal is worth $117 million and has a player option for the final year. Sure, the Knicks would be eating a mammoth salary to have Westbrook on their roster for the coming season, but it’s a price worth paying if you can enter the 2023 free-agency class with max cap space.
Randle Would Return to Where it All Started
The Lakers selected Randle with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and the big man spent the subsequent four years playing in the purple and gold. However, once Randle became a free agent, he left the Lakers to join Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Interestingly, after Randle inked his deal with the Pelicans, rumors started to surface that Davis was an active participant in recruiting Randle. Now, Davis is one of the Lakers’ foundational pieces moving forwards, and he could play a role in convincing the front office to take a gamble by bringing the Kentucky product back to Los Angeles.
Randle, a career 33.2% three-point shooter doesn’t project to be the floor spacer the Lakers so desperately need. However, at just 27 years old, the big man does help the team get younger and gives them another facilitator around the high-post, which helps when teams double-team LeBron James or Davis.
However, it’s unlikely the Lakers begin to make any roster moves until they have a new head coach in place, as the front office will likely look for the coach’s input on how he envisions the team lining up next season – at which point, Westbrook may find his Lakers career being thrown a lifeline.