With some of the more prominent NBA trade rumors lingering long into the offseason, questions surround the future of several players on the trade block. One of those players is Julius Randle who may be the odd man out if the New York Knicks make a splashy trade. Should the Denver Nuggets get involved in a potential deal for the playmaking forward?
Randle won the Most Improved Player Award in the 2020-21 season, leading the Knicks to a surprise playoff berth and putting up plenty of counting stats for Tom Thibedeau’s new roster. However, the 2021-22 season was disappointing for the former Kentucky big man as he failed to repeat the prior year’s success while New York missed the Play-In Tournament.
Despite the down season, New York signed arguably the best free agent this offseason, adding Jalen Brunson. After this, Danny Ainge made it clear that the Utah Jazz were tearing their roster down and made Donovan Mitchell available in trades, a player long linked to Madison Square Garden.
When theorizing what a Mitchell deal would look like, some included Julius Randle while some saw him being re-routed to a third team. Marc Stein reported on 19 Jul. 2022 that if a Donovan trade happened, New York could pivot to a trade of Julius Randle to shed future salary.
One team mentioned as a recipient of Randle is the LA Lakers, a team looking for a landing spot for their own big salary in Russell Westbrook.
Since then, the trade market has stalled. Ainge is maintaining a high asking price for his star guard and Kevin Durant pulled his name out of the trade market altogether.
There was a report from Fred Katz, The Athletic, that the Knicks aren’t willing to attach any first-round picks to sweeten the pot in a Randle salary dump, and another from Jovan Buha, The Athletic that says the Lakers have no interest in trading for the forward.
The Knicks want to open up space for greater financial flexibility but they don’t want to pay someone for the luxury. Now, what does this have to do with the Denver Nuggets?
Could (and should) the Denver Nuggets get involved in a Julius Randle deal?
The question is simple here: should the Denver Nuggets trade for Julius Randle?
Next season, Randle will make just a little bit over $4 million more than Aaron Gordon who’s, like Julius, is entering the first year of a four-year deal they signed with these teams.
A swap of power forwards would be the most likely deal if the Nuggets were interested in Randle. There are other trade machinations that get a deal done but Denver doesn’t have much wiggle room under the salary cap to absorb more salary from the Knicks. Additionally, both players play the same position so it wouldn’t work.
From a counting stat point of view (a 2K MyLeague angle, as I like to call it), Randle is a better player, so shouldn’t Calvin Booth execute a deal like this?
In my opinion, Julius Randle is miscast as a number one option. Yes, he succeeded in his Most Improved Player season, but even in that season, the Knicks had a below-average offense with and without him.
He was an offensive hub who liked to operate in face-up situations in the low post. There’s an obvious overlap here with Nikola Jokic, the best offensive hub who likes to operate in face-up situations in the low post… in the world.
If Michael Malone asked Randle to operate more off the ball or lead the bench units when Jokic sat, would he be happy to do that?
From the Knicks point of view, it’d be a win. With Brunson wearing blue and orange next season and potentially another dominant on-ball player in Mitchell, there might be too many cooks in New York next season. Aaron Gordon is an excellent play finisher with his athletic prowess around the hoop and smart cuts.
These are all reasons why AG is a better fit in Denver as well as New York. With Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. returning next season, the Nuggets will have their own issues of usage to address. And that’s before hypothetically adding a ball-dominant post operator.
Additionally, AG’s the Nuggets’ best defensive player and in two playoff runs with Denver, has been tasked with guarding the best offensive player – both guards and forwards.
If a trade straight up doesn’t work, then are there some kind of assets the Knicks could throw in to sweeten the pot? Well, that brings us back to the Fred Katz report, New York doesn’t want to do that.
Could the Denver Nuggets trade for Julius Randle? Most likely. Should they (even if the counting stats looks juicy)? No, they shouldn’t.
When looking at Gordon’s role on other teams, it’s nice to remember how much of a steal the trade was during the 2020-21 trade deadline. AG fits perfectly on so many rosters and is arguably the best on this Denver roster.