RJ Barret. Immanuel Quickley. Kevin Knox. Mitchell Robinson. Obi Toppin.
Every one of those players is in their age 22 season or younger, forming a quality young core the Knicks can use to build something in the future — and they already look like a playoff team this season. At 14-16 so far, the Knicks sit as the seven seed in the East as you read this.
Is 26-year-old Julius Randle part of that core? Is he a key piece of the Knicks’ future? Or is he just part of the bridge that is transitioning the Knicks to what is next?
Some in the Knicks organization count Randle in the core, Ian Begley of SNY.TV said on his video segment The Putback with Ian Begley (hat tip Real GM).
“There are prominent members of the Knicks organization that feel Randle is part of this young core that they’re trying to move forward with,” said Begley.
Is he an important enough part of the core that they will not trade him? Teams will call to kick the tires on a Randle trade at the deadline, and the Knicks will listen and at least gauge his market value.
“I’m not saying the Knicks would be motivated to make a deal based on that conversation,” added Begley.
Randle is putting up numbers, averaging 23.2 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, enough to have him in serious consideration for an All-Star spot. He also has a player option for next season at $19.8 million — any team that trades for him has to realize soon they will have to pay to keep him.
Randle can bully his way to the bucket and 40% of his shots come within 10 feet of the rim, but he also can space the floor — something he did not always do well — and is shooting 40.7% from three. There is value in his game, but he is seen around the league as more of a floor raiser for a franchise rather than a guy who can take a team deep into the postseason.
The Knicks are winning more than expected and have a nice core, but they do not have a franchise cornerstone, No. 1 option player. They have to get their Doncic/Embiid/Jokic/Antetokounmpo — via draft, free agency or trade — to reach and stay in the NBA’s upper eschelon. Whether Randle is a part of the Knicks future comes down to how he fits with this to be determined player, or if the Knicks need to trade Randle to get said player.
There should be nobody untouchable on this roster.