Julius Randle

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Randle, Rivers, Quickley

The Knicks are excited about lottery pick Obi Toppin, but there are concerns about his fit alongside Julius Randle, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Both are natural power forwards, and many scouts tell Berman that Toppin doesn’t have the versatility to play small forward in the NBA.

“I think best case, they don’t play together that often and you share the 48 power-forward minutes,’’ former NBA scout Bryan Oringher said. “You can get away with each of them as a small-ball 5 for a few minutes a game, but I really don’t think either can play the 3. As centers, they are obviously undersized, and your rim protection will be pretty porous.’’

Randle is headed into the final fully guaranteed year of the contract he signed last summer. He would eat up $4MM in cap space if the Knicks cut him loose before the 2021/22 season, so there’s incentive to trade him before then and let Toppin become the starter at power forward.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks’ point guard situation may be even more muddled than it was last season, contends Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr., who shared the job a year ago, are all still with the team, as well as free agent addition Austin Rivers and first-round pick Immanuel Quickley. New York missed out on free agent targets Fred VanVleet and D.J. Augustin.
  • Rivers’ new deal will pay him $3.5MM this season, $3.3MM is 2021/22 and $3.15MM in 2022/23, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The second and third years won’t become guaranteed until seven days after the final day of the moratorium for each season.
  • In a lengthy interview, Quickley talks to Steve Serby of The New York Post about his experiences at Kentucky and his hopes for the NBA. “My whole life I wasn’t ranked,” Quickley said. “I had just gotten ranked like my junior and senior year. And then I come into Kentucky, people don’t believe that I’m gonna be good enough to be able to … I’m not the quote unquote usual Kentucky player like John Wall or De’Aaron Fox or something like that. But I still came in and had success. And then I think it’s a lot of people that still doubt me coming into the league, don’t think I can play point guard, don’t think I’m strong enough or things like that, so just always trying to prove the doubters wrong and prove myself right.”

Knicks Notes: Bertans, Randle, Toppin, Point Guards

Wizards sharpshooter Davis Bertans could be a free agent option for the Knicks if they can’t land Gordon Hayward, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who says Bertans is high on the club’s wish list. New York has a need for outside shooting and Bertans is one of the best in the league. He ranked third last season in three-pointers taken and made, while hitting them at a 42.4% clip.

Like Hayward, Bertans will carry an expensive price tag and there will be plenty of competition for his services. Washington will make keeping him a priority, and the Spurs would like to bring him back after trading him away to open cap space in an ill-fated attempt to sign Marcus Morris.

The Knicks are one of the few teams entering free agency with ample cap space, roughly $35MM after clearing out the roster Thursday and acquiring Ed Davis from Utah. Berman notes that a sign-and-trade with Washington could be possible, with New York throwing in a couple of the 2023 second-rounders it acquired this week.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Julius Randle‘s future in New York could be shaky after the Knicks drafted his apparent replacement in Obi Toppin, states Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Randle averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game during his first season with the team, but shot a disappointing 46% from the floor and wasn’t able to become the focus of the offense. He will make $18.9MM this season, but only has a $4MM guarantee on his $19.8MM contract for 2021/22.
  • In addition to his overall skills, Toppin brings an electrifying athleticism that should make him a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden, notes David Waldstein of The New York Times“I don’t rank his dunks,” said Dayton head coach Anthony Grant, “but he will definitely excite a crowd with his explosiveness, variety and showmanship. He’s fun to watch; must-see TV.”
  • For all the excitement about the Knicks’ draft, they still haven’t filled their most pressing need, which is finding a point guard, contends Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. The decision to part with Elfrid Payton leaves Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. as the only point guards currently on the roster. Options include trading for Russell Westbrook or making a huge offer to free agent Fred VanVleet, but Vaccaro suggests the Knicks might wait for a long-term solution until next year’s draft when Cade Cunningham, Caleb Love and DJ Steward may all be available.

Rockets Rumors: Westbrook, Harden, Luxury Tax, Tate

The Hornets and Knicks are the only teams with “verifiable” trade interest in Rockets star Russell Westbrook so far, Marc Stein of The New York Times writes in his weekly newsletter. And Stein cautions that both clubs’ interest is “conditional” rather than aggressive.

Some people around the NBA believe that Charlotte’s desire to acquire Westbrook will increase if the team doesn’t end up drafting LaMelo Ball on Wednesday night, per Stein. As for the Knicks, their stance is best described as “weighing, but resisting,” according to Stein, who says multiple people within the organization are hesitant to make a move for Westbrook and his pricey contract.

Stein suggests that the best offer the Rockets could expect from the Knicks for Westbrook at this point would include one future first-round pick from Dallas, along with players who aren’t part of the team’s long-term plans, such as perhaps Julius Randle and Dennis Smith Jr.. Even then, there’s no guarantee New York would want to take on the three years and $133MM left on Westbrook’s contract.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • While the Rockets remain reluctant to move James Harden and don’t feel pressure to make a move right away, the “overwhelming expectation” around the NBA is that he’ll eventually be dealt, whether it’s this week, next month, or sometime in 2021, according to David Aldridge and Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Past inquires of Harden have simply been turned aside by the Rockets, but there’s a sense that they’ll now come around if the package is strong enough.
  • Although Harden is reportedly focused on getting to the Nets, the Sixers‘ interest in him has grown in recent weeks, sources tell The Athletic’s duo. According to Aldridge and Iko, rapper Meek Mill – who is from Philadelphia – has been trying to convince Harden to come to the Sixers.
  • The Clippers aren’t currently pursuing Harden, per The Athletic’s report.
  • Sources tell Aldridge and Iko that Harden feels as if some of the Rockets’ decisions – including roster moves and hirings – have been made without substantial impact from him.
  • The Athletic’s sources maintain that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is “hellbent” on keeping the team out of luxury tax territory for the foreseeable future.
  • Sydney Kings swingman Jae’Sean Tate, who went undrafted out of Ohio State in 2018, is expected to sign with the Rockets sometime after free agency opens later this week, Stein reports. John Hollinger of The Athletic recently referred to Tate – who made over 40% of his three-point attempts in Australia last season – as one of the most highly-regarded players outside of the U.S. Houston is also bringing Sydney’s head coach Will Weaver stateside as an assistant on Stephen Silas’ staff, as we relayed last week.

Oladipo Expected To Draw Trade Interest From Knicks

Following a report that stated Victor Oladipo was “looking to move on” from the Pacers, the two-time All-Star dismissed the idea that he wants to leave Indiana.

Still, with just one year left on his contract and no guarantee he’ll re-sign with the Pacers, Oladipo figures to draw trade interest this offseason, and the Knicks look like one of the teams that will kick the tires on a potential deal, as Marc Berman of The New York Post writes.

Addressing the possibility of the Knicks pursuing Chris Paul, Berman cites NBA officials who say that putting together an offer for Oladipo is expected to be a “higher priority” for the club.

New president of basketball operations Leon Rose has a long-standing connection to Paul, having previously represented him at CAA. However, Oladipo is seven years younger and has a major booster in New York’s front office as well, Berman explains — general manager Scott Perry drafted the guard in 2013 when he was a member of Orlando’s front office and “still is enamored” with him.

As Berman points out, the Knicks have already made a habit of acquiring players Perry previously drafted in Orlando, signing Mario Hezonja in 2018 and Elfrid Payton in 2019.

Of course, a trade for Oladipo would require a more significant investment, both in terms of the trade package required to land him and in terms of the financial commitment it would take to sign him to a long-term deal.

One NBA personnel person who spoke to Berman suggested that an offer of Julius Randle, Dennis Smith Jr., and the Mavericks’ 2021 and 2023 first-round picks could “whet the Pacers’ appetite,” though I’d be surprised if Indiana is enamored with any Knicks package that doesn’t include one of New York’s own future first-rounders.

If the Pacers do seriously consider moving Oladipo this fall, the Heat are expected to be among the other clubs with interest.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Knicks, Raptors, Sixers

The Celtics‘ lack of depth was exposed during the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who contends that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge deserves some criticism for the club’s thin bench and a failure to make upgrades at the trade deadline.

In Washburn’s view, the Celtics’ squad was “cluttered” with too many non-contributors who couldn’t help the team this year. Ainge needs to focus this offseason on adding more players who can be counted on for minutes in big games, says Washburn.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

New York Notes: T. Johnson, M. Jackson, Thibodeau, Randle

It took four years, but Tyler Johnson is finally a member of the Nets and he’s thrilled about the opportunity, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks presented Johnson with a four-year, $50MM offer sheet in 2016, hoping to snare the young guard as part of a rebuilding project.

Johnson’s stock has fallen considerably since Miami chose to match that offer. He has been out of the league since the Suns waived him in February after a disappointing season following knee surgery. The Nets signed him last month to fill one of their many roster openings.

“Maybe I wasn’t at 100 percent. I was working through it, trying to get right,” Johnson said, adding that his knee is now fully healed. “But I didn’t have that pop, that bounce I used to have where I’d try to go up over the top of people. Who knows if that played a role in anything. I don’t put any blame anywhere but myself. At the end of the day I can only control myself. … Unfortunately it didn’t work out. But fortunately, I’m here. I find myself in a position where I can have a little bit of redemption.”

There’s more on the New York teams:

  • There may be hints that Kevin Durant is throwing his support behind Mark Jackson to be the Nets‘ next head coach, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest podcast. Windhorst notes that Rich Kleiman, Durant’s friend and business partner, has started tweeting frequently about Jackson, the former Warriors coach and current ABC/ESPN broadcaster.
  • Former player and current agent B.J. Armstrong believes Tom Thibodeau would be an excellent choice as the Knicks‘ head coach, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Armstrong represents Derrick Rose, who played for Thibodeau in Chicago in Minnesota and maintains a tight relationship with the coach. “I always admired how (Thibodeau) coached,’’ Armstrong said. “He brings the fire and the heat. And most importantly, he’s always prepared for the game. He loves the game. He had an excellent career in this league. He made a life commitment to the game. I’ll be really happy for him (if he gets the job).’’
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic looks at how the Knicks might be able to find a better role for Julius Randle if he remains with the team next season. New York is reportedly willing to trade Randle, but his salary may make that difficult in the current financial climate.

Knicks Open To Trading Julius Randle

With the NBA’s plan to return for the 2019/20 in place, the Knicks are officially in the offseason stage, as the organization was not one of the 22 teams summoned to Orlando.

In addition to searching for a new head coach, newly-minted team president Leon Rose will also have to focus on building the roster for next season. Last summer’s big free-agent signing, Julius Randle, is someone the team would be open to trading, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

The Knicks have already explored moving Randle, as the team had talks with the Hornets ahead of this year’s trade deadline. Randle signed a three-year, $63MM deal last summer after New York failed to land Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving in free agency.

Randle had flashes of brilliance this season, but his defensive shortcomings and ball-dominant style of play failed to mesh with the Knicks’ core of youngsters. Although Randle averaged 19.7 PPG and 9.7 RPG in 64 games, his strong three-point shooting from a year prior fell to 27.7%.

As Berman notes, there are some financial implications that could hinder dealing Randle, but his $18.9MM salary for next season is manageable. Also, still just 25 years old, Randle can be a helpful piece to an NBA team.

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Durant, Prince, Walker

New Knicks president Leon Rose is open to dealing Julius Randle despite Randle being a former client when Rose was a player agent, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Rose would also be willing to shed Randle’s contract after next season, even though Randle has a partial guarantee of $4MM on his $19.8MM salary for the 2021/22 season. Prior to Rose taking over, the Knicks had discussions with Charlotte before February’s trade deadline involving Randle, who reportedly upset some teammates this season with his ball-dominant style.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Members of the Knicks organization last summer expressed confidence that Kevin Durant would have signed with them if he hadn’t suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals, Ian Begley of SNY.TV reports. If that were true, Durant would have convinced Kyrie Irving to sign with New York instead of the Nets or recruited a different star to join him, Begley continues. The Knicks were not prepared last summer to offer Durant a max deal due to concerns from owner James Dolan regarding the injury. However, Durant has said publicly that he didn’t give the Knicks much consideration anyway, Begley notes.
  • Forward Taurean Prince took a step back this season and that could lead to a dilemma for the Nets, Zach Lowe of ESPN opines. Brooklyn gave Prince a two-year, $25.25MM rookie scale extension prior to the season that kicks in next season. He could have been a trade chip this summer in a package to bring in another star but it’s unclear what kind of value he has now, Lowe adds.
  • Kemba Walker would have remained with Charlotte for less than a super-max deal last summer but he knew that wouldn’t happen after meeting with Hornets owner Michael Jordan, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe writes. Walker may have stayed put if the Hornets had offered him five years and approximately $180MM. The Celtics emerged as the most likely destination because they were already a playoff team and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had been enamored with Walker ever since the point guard’s days at the University of Connecticut, Himmelsbach adds.

Some Knicks Were Frustrated By Randle’s Playing Style

Some Knicks players, including prized rookie RJ Barrett, were frustrated during the 2019/20 season by Julius Randle‘s approach on offense, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

As Berman explains, Barrett – who is accustomed to having the ball in his hands – was among the players put off by Randle’s tendency to hang onto the ball too long and overdribble. While Berman suggests that the chemistry between Barrett and Randle will be worth keeping an eye on going forward, he notes that 2019’s No. 3 overall pick wasn’t the only player who was irked by Randle’s playing style.

“A lot of players felt like that with the exception of Elfrid Payton,” one source told The Post.

Unlike every other free agent signed by the Knicks during the 2019 offseason, Randle received a guaranteed multiyear commitment. He’ll earn $18.9MM in 2020/21, so it’s safe to say he’ll be back with the team unless there’s an offseason trade.

Reports before February’s trade deadline indicated that the Knicks were willing to discuss Randle, with Ian Begley of SNY.tv writing this week that the club engaged with the Hornets on a potential swap that would have included Randle, Dennis Smith, Terry Rozier, and Malik Monk, among other assets.

Assuming Randle returns, one Eastern Conference personnel person who spoke to Berman thinks the Knicks would be wise to avoid tasking him with the lead scoring role, despite the fact that the big man put up a team-high 19.5 PPG in 2019/20 (Marcus Morris scored 19.6 PPG as a Knick, but was traded in February). Randle struggled when he found himself receiving the brunt of opposing defenses’ attention, turning the ball over frequently.

“He absolutely should not be your No. 1 or even No. 2 option, maybe not even No. 3 on a serious contender,” that personnel man told Berman. “He doesn’t have a good enough feel (and is) much too ball-dominant. I don’t trust his decisions with the ball. As sixth man, he would fit perfectly because I don’t think he gives you much defensively either. That’s more in line with a sixth-man role.”

First World Problems: Knicks’ Point Guard Situation

The Knicks‘ point guard situation appears to be an evergreen problem. New team president Leon Rose inherits a stable of underwhelming options just as Steve Mills and Phil Jackson did entering their respective regimes. Like his predecessors, Rose is expected to look for upgrades at the position this offseason.

What are some potential options? Prior to the Rose hire, the team had interest in trading for Terry Rozier, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv details. According to Begley, there was some support internally to send a package of Julius Randle, Dennis Smith Jr., and a future first-rounder to the Hornets in exchange for a return that included Rozier and Malik Monk.

While Rozier isn’t the All-Star point guard that New York’s fan base hopes for, he’s an upgrade on the current options. Elfrid Payton and Smith have had up-and-down results in the Big Apple. Frank Ntilikina, who has one more year left on his rookie deal, finally showed some progress but his long-term future with the club is uncertain.

Fred VanVleet will likely be the top point guard available on the free-agent market, though it’s hard to envision Toronto not doing all it can to retain the 2019 Finals hero. Chris Paul could be an option, but his contract gave teams pause last summer and that was before factoring in any sort of coronavirus-related basketball income woes that could suppress the league’s salary cap.

The franchise selecting a point guard atop the 2020 NBA draft might the best option for a brighter future at the position. The Knicks entered the NBA’s hiatus with the sixth-worst record in the league, which would give the team a 9% chance at the No. 1 overall selection, as we detailed earlier this month.