Julius Randle on the Knicks might be the worst fit in the NBA.
He looks miserable in New York. The power forward’s play has declined considerably from his breakout year last season. He has repeatedly acted out, drawing four fines from the league and causing the organization to incur another.
Marc Berman of the New York Post:
But some people around the league feel he’s acting in a “James Harden type of way” that suggests he wants a new place of work next season. Randle has lost his strongest ally in assistant coach Kenny Payne, his former mentor at Kentucky who left this month to be the head coach at Louisville. Some NBA sources believe the Knicks will shop Randle for a package revolving around a center if they lose Mitchell Robinson.
In the final minute of the Charlotte laugher last week, Randle left the bench, then stayed in the tunnel with a public relations staffer. But that’s nothing compared to his decision to no longer participate in the pregame starting lineup introductions for road games — choosing instead to stay in the back to warm up.
Sources contend a lack of leadership from Randle has hurt the club this season. One source said Randle sometimes dresses by himself in another area of the locker room.
James Harden passive-aggressively then aggressively pushed for – and received – a trade from the Nets to the 76ers. Though the NBA fines players for public trade requests, players can induce trades by making a mess. It needn’t even be deliberate. These are humans. When they’re unhappy in their current situations, they rarely put their best foot forward to help their team.
But several questions remain about this situation.
Does Randle actually want a trade? Do Berman’s sources have insight into Randle’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on his behavior? The factors driving Randle’s gloom might be independent of the Knicks.
Along those lines, would Randle perform better elsewhere? On a contract extension signed after his career year, Randle is due $82,684,800 over the next three seasons plus incentives. Teams will be reluctant to trade for the 27-year-old without believing he’ll play better with a fresh start elsewhere.
New York would be selling low on Randle this offseason. If Mitchell Robinson leaves as a free agent this offseason, New York would still have Nerlens Noel. Randle can also play center, though Tom Thibodeau – who’s apparently keeping his job – prefers a bigger lineup with a better defensive center. Obi Toppin might be ready for a bigger role at power forward.
So, there’s room for a Randle trade to make sense – especially if he wants one. But finding a trade partner might not be so easy.