Julius Randle's season has been an unmitigated disappointment after all of the hope and optimism surrounding his Most Improved Player campaign a year ago. His numbers are down across the board, and after earning the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks have fallen out of the top 10 this season. Randle looked like New York's franchise player before the season. Now, the team and the city are wondering what his future is even with the franchise.
Those questions have come to a head in recent days with unsubstantiated reports claiming that Randle had requested a trade after Monday's game against the Chicago Bulls. Randle himself has now officially denied those claims, telling SNY's Ian Begley "That's just not true bro, it's just not true. It's just as simple as that."
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Randle could not have been traded for most of the season. He signed a four-year extension during the offseason that imposed a six-month trade restriction. That restriction lifted on Feb. 3, a week before the deadline, and the Knicks obviously did not move him the seven days that they had to do so. Whether or not they considered it remains unknown.
The New York Post's Marc Berman reported Tuesday that there are NBA sources who believe that the Knicks will try to trade Randle this offseason for a center if Mitchell Robinson leaves in free agency. Longtime Randle confidante Kenny Payne, who coached him in college at Kentucky and again with the Knicks, left the team recently to become the head coach at Louisville.
But trading Randle on that four-year extension likely won't be easy. He is still putting up numbers—20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per night—but on relatively inefficient numbers and with inconsistent effort defensively. His body language has been picked apart as well. He has been fined this season for refusing to speak to the media, leading many to question his leadership. Those concerns would likely draw some hesitation from interested parties. Randle is owed over $100 million on his new contract.
But there is no such thing as an untradeable contract in the NBA, and the overwhelming majority of players who want trades don't go public with their desires. If these two sides want to separate in the offseason, there will be a way for them to do so. For now, though, there's still room to believe that Randle and the Knicks can turn things around next season.