The New York Knicks surprised many when they earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference during the 2020-21 season. They went on to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks, but one thing's for sure: it was a far more successful campaign than what they achieved ... or didn't achieve ... the following year.
Julius Randle set the tone for the Knicks during their last playoff campaign by earning an All-NBA Second-Team nod, as well as the Association's Most Improved Player Award. He did so by averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, but there was significant regression last season.
Randle's production declined in many key areas, including points (20.1), rebounds (9.9), and assists (5.1), but more troublesome was his 3-point shooting. He went from knocking down 41.1 percent of his attempts from deep in 2021-22 to converting at just a 30.8 percent clip the following season.
When simplifying Randle's scoring production into a per possession measure, he produced just 0.868 points by that metric last season. His output finished better than only Russell Westbrook when compared to the 24 other players who recorded at least 1,500 possessions.
Between sideline outbursts and a clear inconsistent level of effort on defense, Randle's attitude and leadership were arguably more problematic than the decline in his scoring efficiency.
There has been speculation at times about the possibility of the Knicks simply moving on from Randle using a trade ahead of the 2022-23 season. The outlook is bleak to necessarily identify a suitor for his services given he is at the beginning of a four-year, $117.1 million contract.
In a trade speculation piece, NBA Analysis Network constructed three trades involving Randle that would enable the Knicks to move his contract. Among those hypothetical deals involves Randle heading to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Kelly Oubre, Mason Plumlee, and the 2023 first-round pick (from Denver via Charlotte).
New York Knicks Receive: F Kelly Oubre, C Mason Plumlee, 2023 First-Round Pick (DEN via CHA)
Charlotte Hornets Receive: F Julius Randle
It has been a tough offseason for the Hornets, given Miles Bridges being charged with three counts of felony domestic violence. It's safe to say, Charlotte probably shouldn't factor Bridges into their plans at this point.
By removing Bridges from the picture, the Hornets need to add another scoring threat to their frontcourt. Using a buy-low trade to acquire Randle could be a logical option. The Hornets would add a mid-post scorer and hope that there's some recovery in his scoring efficiency after a change of scenery.
The advantage of participating in this trade for the Knicks would be the relief of future salary cap spending obligations. Both players the Hornets would be sending, Oubre and Plumlee, are set to play the 2022-23 season on expiring deals.
The Knicks would clear just under $25.7 million in salary cap spending obligations for 2023-24 by moving on from Randle in this particular trade scenario. He is signed through the 2025-26 season with a salary that rises to potentially $29.5 million
While neither Oubre nor Plumlee would elevate the Knicks to new heights, the team would have the option of re-focusing the foundation of their team around R.J. Barrett and Jalen Brunson. Both players could become greater focal points of the half-court offense with a more spread-out attack.