The New York Knicks reportedly held exploratory conversations about a potential trade of power forward Julius Randle.
Fred Katz of The Athletic reported Tuesday on the Callin Shots podcast (h/t R.P. Salao of Clutch Points) a deal would be tough because New York isn't in a position of strength after the 2021 All-Star's play took a step back last season.
"The Knicks have inquired with other teams about moving Julius Randle," Katz said. "I'm not optimistic. If you're somebody who wants them to trade Randle, I wouldn't predict that's what happens this summer. We're talking about like giving him away. Maybe if you take back a contract of equal value."
Randle enjoyed a breakout 2020-21 season, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.3 threes while shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. He won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award and helped the Knicks end a seven-year playoff drought.
His numbers dropped across the board last season, including a career-worst 41.1 shooting percentage, as New York missed the postseason with a 37-45 record.
The statistical drop combined with the fact he signed a four-year, $117.1 million contract extension last August leaves the Knicks little option beyond hoping for a bounce-back campaign in 2022-23.
In March, Randle denied asking for a trade or wanting to leave the Knicks.
"Yeah, that's not true, bro," the 27-year-old Texas native told reporters. "That's just not true. Simple as that. It's not true at all."
He added: "I'm a Knick. That's what I love. I love being a Knick."
So Randle will likely remain in New York, at least to open the new season, and he could face less pressure to help run the offense if the team is successful in free agency.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon reported Tuesday the Knicks are preparing to offer guard Jalen Brunson a contract in the neighborhood of $110 million over four years to take over as their main ball-handler.
A starting lineup of Randle, Brunson, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson would at least give the team the foundation for a return to the playoffs in the East.
Getting back to the postseason is the main focus for the Knicks, and giving Randle away in a trade after a down year wouldn't do anything to help that process.