Julius Randle
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Does Julius Randle Deserve A Max Contract Extension?

With yesterday’s announcement of the 2021 All-NBA teams, Knicks forward Julius Randle had some great news coming his way. The All-Star took it one step further, as he was named to the All-NBA second team, the first appearance of his career. A great season has become even greater for the reigning Most Improved Player. An extension with the Knicks is likely the next thing on Randle’s mind, but there are some question marks. After being selected as one of the NBA’s four best forwards this season, should Julius Randle be paid like one? Here are the reasons why and why not to do so.

The Case For Giving Randle A Max Extension

Randle is still a young player and could have his best years ahead of him. At age 26, he is right around the time of his career where his prime begins, so it makes sense to lock him up for the long term. He had an incredible regular season with averages of 24 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and over 41% shooting from deep. His scoring threat from both the inside and outside made him exceptional as the Knicks’ #1 option during their unexpected rise to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Kentucky man also adds a lot to that tight-knit locker room, as many Knicks see him as the leader and are very close with him. Furthermore, Randle has even expressed his desire to remain a Knick for a long time, so many signs are pointing to a long and successful tenure in the Big Apple. However, not all signs are pointing that way, as there are some reasons not to hand out a max contract to Randle.

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The Case Against Giving Randle A Max Extension

The front office would definitely want to see some sustainability from Randle before making such a large commitment. As great as he was, 2020-2021 was the best season of his career, so it makes sense to want to make sure Randle can keep it up into 2022 and beyond. Furthermore, the Randle we saw in the regular season completely disappeared in the playoffs. He averaged 18 points per game in the Knicks’ 5 game defeat to the Atlanta Hawks while not even being able to crack 30 percent shooting from the field. They were able to slow him down significantly, even though he did contribute elsewhere with an improved 11.6 rebounds per game. Randle’s game, however, was epitomized by poor shot selection. JR decided to take an incredible amount of contested jump shots instead of passing for a better look, with his assists per game shrinking down to 4 during the postseason. All of the league’s best players are paid largely due to their postseason performance, with teams willing to engage in load management to make sure they are as healthy as possible for when it matters the most. It is very likely that Leon Rose wanted to see more from Randle against the Hawks before considering making such a large commitment. This season was more than likely not a “flash in the pan” for Randle, but there is definitely more to be desired from the Texas-born forward.

The Verdict: Wait It Out

There is a team option on the next year of Randle’s 3-year, $63 million contract with the Knicks. While it may upset him and his agent, the most logical decision is for the Knicks to accept that option and let the next season play out. If Randle keeps up his All-NBA caliber play and proves that he is here to stay, then it makes even more sense for the Knicks to sign him up for the long-term. However, if he regresses or gets injured, then it might also make sense for Randle to leave as a free agent in order to rediscover the form he had this year. Regardless, the Julius Randle situation combined with many other decisions makes the Knicks one of the most interesting teams to look out for in the 2021 NBA offseason.

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