Julius Randle led the New York Knicks to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, won the league’s Most Improved Player award, and is a strong candidate for a spot on an All-NBA Team, according to our HoopsHype media voting poll.
He has a $19.8 million non-guaranteed salary for next season with the Knicks in the final season of his contract and guaranteeing that salary is a mere formality coming off his career year. He will then be eligible for a four-year, $106.44 million contract extension with the Knicks that begins during the 2022-23 season, as noted by HoopsHype’s salary cap expert Yossi Gozlan.
With that in mind, HoopsHype polled eight executives and five scouts for their thoughts on whether Randle’s career year was a fluke and whether or not they would offer him that max extension this summer if they were the Knicks. Of those polled, four said they’d offer the max extension, two were unsure, and seven said they’d wait until next summer to make a long-term financial commitment to Randle.
Was Randle’s career season a fluke or not?
The overall consensus was Randle has turned the corner in his development, but there’s uncertainty whether he can sustain his three-point shooting going forward.
“I think he’s developed a ton,” an NBA executive told HoopsHype. “He also was pushed to the max with a coach known for doing that. You pretty much have to offer him that deal, which turns into a problem. I think he’s a No. 3, maybe a No. 2 guy, on a championship team, so you better have a mechanism to get some players next to him when you offer him that money.”
“I think he definitely improved a great deal beyond what nearly anyone thought he was capable of, particularly defensively and from three,” an NBA scout told HoopsHype. “I think he can sustain this level of success in the regular season, but to me, he’s not a No. 1 or 2 guy on a final four team. I’d prioritize that, but wouldn’t mind extending him around those numbers if it doesn’t hamper flexibility to get a No. 1 or 2 level guy.”
After shooting a career-high 41.1 percent from beyond the arc, it marked the first time Randle shot better than 34 percent from downtown in his career leaving some executives concerned this was an anomaly.
“I just doubt the shooting is sustainable,” another NBA executive told HoopsHype. “Maybe some of the rest of it is.”
The case for extending Randle
Randle set career-highs in points (24.1), rebounds (10.2), assists (6.0), steals (0.9), three-point percentage (.411), minutes (37.6) this season as the focal point of opposing defenses on a nightly basis. Without Randle, New York doesn’t come close to making the playoffs, let alone earning the fourth seed in the conference.
“He’s been really good in a difficult year,” an NBA executive told HoopsHype. “If that’s his max (four years, $106.44 million), it’s probably not much of a decision. He won Most Improved Player, was an All-Star, might make an All-NBA Team, and was the best player on a playoff team that he led. He’s super durable and played huge minutes. Don’t overlook that.”
Randle led the league in minutes played (2667) and minutes per game (37.6), ranked second in defensive win shares (4.3), fourth in defensive rebounds (639), seventh in total points (1712), ninth in free throws attempted (429), and ranked 10th in field goals made (602), free throws made (348), defensive rating (107.2), and total rebounds (723) per Basketball-Reference. In doing so, the four talent evaluators who voted yes felt Randle justified a pay raise to his max figure, which comes in at roughly $26.61 million annually.
“That seems like it is at least in the neighborhood of a fair offer,” a longtime NBA scout told HoopsHype.
The case for passing on an extension for Randle
As noted above, the majority of the talent evaluators polled voted against giving Randle the max contract extension.
Randle struggled mightily in New York’s playoff series against the Hawks shooting 29.8 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from downtown while his scoring production decreased to 18.0 points per game.
“I don’t believe Julius is a max guy,” an NBA executive told HoopsHype. “He’s a good player, but definitely not a max guy in my opinion. I don’t think his season was a fluke. I think Thibs and Kenny Payne are great for him, I just don’t think he is a max player.”
“I’m not sure I’d extend him,” another NBA executive told HoopsHype. “If they go another year under his current contract to let him prove that this year wasn’t a fluke, they’ll still have Bird Rights and can always give him an extra year more than other teams when he’s an unrestricted free agent.”
Other executives aren’t overreacting to one bad playoff series compared to his 71 regular-season games played at a high level. With that said, some believe there’s no rush for New York to get something done.
“I’d probably wait (to extend him),” a third NBA executive told HoopsHype. “If he has another great year, great. I don’t see another team offering much more as a free agent.”
“I doubt they would offer him the max cause they would be bidding against themselves,” a fourth NBA executive told HoopsHype.
For those curious, should Randle and the Knicks fail to agree to an extension, he can get as much as a five-year, $201.5 million deal in 2022 free agency, according to Gozlan’s current salary cap projections.
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