When the Knicks signed Julius Randle in 2019, he was largely seen as a consolation prize. They missed out on the superstars they intended to pursue, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and pounced on Randle as the best available alternative. If they had seen what was coming, they likely would have given him more than two guaranteed years on his contract.
Randle, coming off of disappointing tenures with the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, joined the Knicks and underwhelmed in his first year in New York as well. But this season, he has evolved into one of the NBA's best overall players, earning his first All-Star team selection and becoming the favorite to win Most Improved Player by averaging 24 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game this season -- all career-highs.
Randle has been so successful with the Knicks that he's beginning to imagine a future in New York. He hopes it's a long one. "I love playing in New York," Randle said on the Victory Podcast. "I want to retire as a New York Knick."
Historically speaking, the Knicks don't have a great track record of letting their legends retire in New York. Willis Reed is the only true team legend to spend his entire career with the Knicks. Walt Frazier retired in Cleveland, Bernard King retired in New Jersey, Patrick Ewing retired in Orlando and Carmelo Anthony has played for three teams since leaving the Knicks.
But if Randle wants a future in New York, the Knicks would certainly accommodate. This offseason, he will be eligible for an extension that guarantees him more than $106 million in New York. If he signs it, he will be under contract through the 2025-26 season, but doing so might mean leaving money on the table. If Randle reaches unrestricted free agency in 2022, he would be eligible for as much as $201.5 million over five years, assuming cap projections hold.
If Randle wants to remain in New York badly enough, he'll take the extension this offseason and the security that comes with it. If he doesn't, he'll still have the opportunity to re-sign in 2022, but a lot can change between now and then. Just ask those retired legends who didn't get to finish their careers in New York. Randle could get hurt. His performance, or the team overall, could decline. He could be recruited onto a potential superteam. The longer Randle goes without re-signing in New York, the more doubt can creep in about his future.
An extension would squash that doubt, and put the Knicks on the path towards sustained winning for the first time this century. If Randle could give the Knicks that, they'd be crazy not to make sure he retires in New York.