Julius Randle Could Be Perfect Trade Target For Trail Blazers

Julius Randle, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, NBA Trade Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

The Portland Trail Blazers are in limbo right now after they tore down their roster following former GM Neil Olshey’s dishonorable discharge and Damian Lillard’s season-ending abdominal surgery. Interim GM Joe Cronin made it clear with his moves and his conferences what goals he had for the trades he made this season: to clear as much cap space off of the books for the future as possible and create flexibility for the NBA offseason.

To his credit, he accomplished one of those intentions perfectly. The Blazers shed Norman Powell, Robert Covington, CJ McCollum, and Larry Nance Jr.’s long-term contracts in exchange for a smorgasbord of expiring, minimal, and non-guaranteed deals.

Although Cronin theoretically cleared the Blazers’ ledger and gave them different avenues for improvement, the “flexibility” he created is more of a red herring than it is a reality.

For example, to have significant cap space to work with this summer (close to a max contact territory), Portland would have to shed every non-guaranteed deal they have this offseason. That means cutting Eric Bledsoe and Josh Hart and letting incumbent free agents Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons walk.

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Another precarious asset the Blazers acquired was a $21 million traded player exception which they obtained by shedding salary in the CJ McCollum trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. That TPE allows them to trade for a player fitting into that salary figure regardless of if they have the salaries to match or cap space. Unfortunately, a majority of TPEs in the NBA expire before they’re enacted.

That leaves Portland with few options to try to build a contender around Damian Lillard while he’s still in his prime. Aside from their own lottery pick this summer, the Trail Blazers will have to go bargain bin hunting to try to improve their roster. One perfect trade target that fits that description is the New York Knicks’ Julius Randle.

After signing a four-year/$117 million extension that kicks in next season, Randle severely underwhelmed this year with the Knicks. After winning the 2020-21 NBA’s Most Improved Player award by averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, he saw a steep decline in almost every stat with just 20.1/9.9/5.1 in those categories respectively.

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His efficiency was the main area where he took a hit, going from 46 percent from the field and 41 from deep in 2020-2021 to just 41 and 31 this past season. His defensive effort also fell off of a cliff.

Now, Julius Randle is slated to be overpaid on his next contract and there’s little reassurance of whether he’ll regain his 2021-2021 form or if this past year is more indicative of who he is as a player and the previous season was a money-fueled fluke.

Still, at his best, Randle is a double-double machine and a threat to pour in 20+ points on any given night. He’s capable of bullying defenders on the block and spotting up from deep if his man helps off of him. He’s an elite rebounder and has shown the ability to be an impactful team defender.

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With his season-long slump and incoming contract, Julius Randle’s trade value could be at an all-time low. That means that any team that trades for him, might be able to extract additional assets to take on his risk and salary.

For a team backed into the wall like the Portland Trail Blazers, racing against the clock in the form of Damian Lillard’s title window, a deal like this presents them with a high-risk, high-reward gamble that could pay off in the best possible way.

Perhaps playing next to a true Hall-of-Famer in Damian Lillard in a much smaller market will allow Randle to shed the anxiety and burden of carrying a New York Knicks fanbase thirsting for postseason success. This new situation as a second option in Portland could unlock Randle’s potential and ease his mind.

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A deal like Eric Bledsoe’s non-guaranteed contract, Keon Johnson, and Justise Winslow heading to the Knicks in return for Randle, Cam Reddish, and the Dallas Mavericks’ 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick would make a lot of sense for both teams.

The New York Knicks would be able to shed Randle’s deal and create cap space by cutting Bledsoe, and New York adds two potential contributors in Winslow and Johnson, the latter being a recent first-rounder with potential.

For the Portland Trail Blazers, they’d be betting that Julius Randle would improve in his new setting and hoping that Cam Reddish can finally cash in on all of his 3-and-D plus potential. As insurance, they add a lottery-protected first-round pick that they could either use in a future deal or add young talent.

While that might not have been Cronin’s original vision after taking over the team, he might not have many other options if he means to compete during Damian Lillard’s prime.