The New York Knicks just completed a Cinderella season, sort of. They dealt with a number of injuries before succumbing to the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. But with Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic out for the entire second-round, as well as OG Anunoby missing most of it, options were limited. And maybe it's that resilience, and the underlying success to which it led, that has resulted in Julius Randle's name being mentioned in trade rumors, again. Granted, Randle is an All-Star who the Knicks clearly didn't need to make it to the second round of the playoffs. But regardless why, New York's three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player could be shopped. Let's explore why, and what a Randle trade does to the Knicks' lineup.

Randle's 2023-24 season was cut short

The Knicks were rolling in January. They were 12-2 after trading for Anunoby, and Randle benefited from Anunoby's presence as much as anyone. Unlike RJ Barrett, Anunoby is a terrific shooter. That allowed for more space to operate. Subsequently, Randle averaged 24.9 points on an improved 36.9% on three-point attempts through 14 games in January.

Sadly, Randle dislocated his non-shooting shoulder on January 27 against the Miami Heat. He missed the rest of the 2023-24 season, including the entire playoffs. That put the Knicks at a major disadvantage. After all, Randle was the team's second-leading scorer, leading rebounder, and only player capable of creating for himself other than Brunson.

To be fair, Josh Hart began playing like a man possessed after Randle went down. But Randle brought a different degree of versatility to the court. With Brunson leading the charge, Randle seemed to better understand his role. Or maybe he was just finally able to play it. He became a willing passer. He limited his three-point attempts when he realized they weren't going down; He shot 35% fewer three-pointers in December (53) through 14 games than he did in 14 games in November (82). But his dynamic, off-the-bounce ability remained.

Contract situation and synergy

Now, it's important to mention that few, if any, around the Knicks organization want Randle gone. On the contrary, the idea of a Randle trade is predicated on his perceived value relative to his cost. Randle will be just the 43rd highest-paid player in the entire league next season. While he is due an extension soon, he's still affordable given his production; Randle can become an unrestricted free agent after next season due to a player option for 2025-26.

But remember, basketball is a team sport. And to succeed as a team, you need continuity and culture, So regardless of who's brought back in a trade, moving Randle can technically hurt the Knicks, as incorporating a star inherently requires time and patience. Look at the Dallas Mavericks' struggles last season after adding Kyrie Irving (10-17) compared to their success this season. If New York shops Randle, they should look to add a player who will fit seamlessly with the rest of the roster, as no one wants to waste a season acclimating to a new star.

Could Knicks trade Randle for another power forward?

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) controls the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) in the first quarter during game three of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Randle could improve the team. But where do the Knicks need improvements?  They are set at point guard. And upgrading the center and small positions are unlikely for various reasons.

That leaves possible upgrades at shooting guard and power forward. Randle is about as good as it gets at power forward, especially considering who could be available. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Kevin Durant are three wild cards. If Antetokounmpo becomes available, you send the Milwaukee Bucks (essentially) whatever they want and ask questions later.

Towns is unique in that he's one year younger than Randle and is a better shooter. He could be moved if Minnesota's ownership situation takes a wrong turn. But he's also significantly more expensive ($49 million in 2024-25) and is limited in his ability to create off the dribble. We'll have to wait and see what happens there.

Durant is an entirely different beast. He's undoubtedly great, but he's not as great as he once was. At the end of the day, is Durant worth Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic's expiring deal, Miles McBride, and multiple first-round pick? It's debatable. But the Knicks' window to win closes more quickly if that move is made, as Durant is 35 years old and showing signs of his age. So, that's risky, to say the least.

How Randle could help Knicks add another ballhandler

It's easier to imagine upgrading the shooting guard spot. Doing so allows the Knicks to move Donte DiVincenzo to the bench, and permits Hart to continue being the maniac he was in the starting lineup. It also fills their need for a secondary ball handler. But a willing (and specific) trade partner is required. Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to mind. Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns do, as well. Beyond those two, there aren't many shooting guards likely to be shopped who are worth Randle.

Looking ahead, the Knicks are pretty complete as currently constructed. Are they good enough to win it all? Maybe. And maybe we'll get to see. But rushing to break up this team would be unwise, especially considering Randle's familiarity and chemistry with his teammates.

Now, trading Randle for certain players is a no-brainer, but that means a select few players. Further, doing so requires an understanding of who's being added and how they'll fit with this team.

Love him or hate him, Randle produces, and he's almost always available to play (this season notwithstanding). So, the Knicks should consider every last implication of trading Randle before doing so. They've built the foundation of a really good team. And breaking that up to chase a star can set them back if they add the wrong one.

Thankfully, the Knicks (under Leon Rose's leadership) have resisted the urge to trade for stars in the recent past. So, there's reason to believe they'll move forward deliberately.