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Should Knicks Upgrade or Run It Back with Julius Randle & Current Core?

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The New York Knicks’ offseason will be defined by decisions centered around Randle, Josh Hart, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin.

The New York Knicks made significant progress this season, winning their first playoff series in a decade and integrating a franchise cornerstone in Jalen Brunson locked in on a team-friendly contract that actually decreases in annual salary each year.

New York quickly dispatched a Cleveland team led by Donovan Mitchell, who the Knicks nearly acquired last summer in a “what if” that will last for several more years. But a six-game second-round loss to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat also opened up some questions about whether the currently constituted team can be an NBA Finals contender. These concerns are mostly centered around All-Star forward Julius Randle, whose 15-game playoff resume to date has him averaging 17.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game on 34.4% shooting from the field and 28.3% from downtown.

This offseason, the New York front office has to answer the following: Is Julius Randle a good enough second option? Is the Knicks’ current core good enough?

Randle has two years and $53.2 million left on his contract with a $29.4 million player option in 2025-26. It’s a very tradeable contract if general manager Leon Rose wants a star-level offseason upgrade like former CAA client Karl-Anthony Towns or a potential revisit into acquiring Damian Lillard. For one reason or another, Randle has wilted under the postseason’s bright lights during two different playoff runs. How will management weigh that against the rugged double-double machine he’s become during the regular season?

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Brunson’s emergence this season should have Rose thinking about which players fit best around him and which No. 1 option would pair best with a player whose two-way tenacity and toughness match head coach Tom Thibodeau’s energy. Derrick Rose’s $14.5 million goes off the books this year and Evan Fournier’s deal is done after next season, but young Knicks players are now getting to the point where they’re going to want contract extensions and sizeable raises.

Immanuel Quickley will be a restricted free agent after next season, and will likely ask for a new deal after being a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year. But after a postseason where he averaged nine points and 1.6 rebounds per game on 34.8% from the field and 24.3% from three to go with nine turnovers and eight assists, will the Knicks be questioning their long-term commitment? The same can be said for Obi Toppin, also an RFA after next season, who managed just seven points and 3.5 boards per game in the playoffs on 42.9% from the field and 30.2% from three.

In addition to Derrick Rose, the Knicks don’t have any expiring contracts aside from Deuce McBride’s $1.8 million player option the team will pick up, and who could be a low-cost extension candidate, and Josh Hart, a crucial midseason acquisition with a $12.9 million player option he’ll likely decline to cash in on the open market. 

Now, Leon Rose has to decide whether Randle can or should be upgraded and whether Quickley and Toppin are long-term pieces for the Knicks. Tuesday’s draft lottery will also determine whether the Knicks get Dallas’ top-10 protected pick or be left with no first-rounder at all with their own going to Portland from the Hart trade.

Will New York remain complacent and run the team back like it did after its 2021 playoff appearance or will the Knicks look for substantial upgrades that could catapult this franchise to new heights not seen in decades? Either way, it’s an important offseason for a team looking to stay on the right track.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.