Julius Randle Rumors: Knicks Have 'Mutual Interest' with PF Entering Free Agency

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

New Orleans Pelicans center Julius Randle (30) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Pelicans won 121-118. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

The New York Knicks reportedly are interested a large number of free agents this summer, such as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins and both Markieff and Marcus Morris, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

But one player to keep an eye on is New Orleans Pelicans big man Julius RandlePer Spears' report, "Randle and the Knicks also have mutual interest, according to sources."

"We're going to do everything we can to try to attract free agents, as long as they're the guys that buy into what we're trying to do as an organization," team president Steve Mills told Spears.

"We are going to have the opportunity to meet with the guys we want to meet with," he added.

But Mills was quick to point out that the Knicks wouldn't sacrifice their long-term goals for a short-term splash this summer:

"Our plan wasn't to create $70 million in room to go after free agents this summer. Our plan was to organically build this team through teamwork, drafting well, getting high-character guys that want to compete. The [salary cap] space was a byproduct of that. If the right guys are there for us, great, because we still have all the young pieces and draft picks to move forward.

"And if they're not, we're going to keep building our plan, drafting our guys, playing well and potentially being trade partners. We feel really good about where we are going."

Randle would be an interesting addition. The 24-year-old is coming off his best season, averaging 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three. If his perimeter shooting continues to develop, Randle could become a three-level scorer and could either play as a 4 next to Mitchell Robinson or as a small-ball 5.

The team's young core includes Robinson, RJ Barrett, Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox, and if the Knicks can't lure a premier free agent, finding signees to complement that group and allow it to grow would be wise. 

Randle won't demand the type of money the tier of players just below the marquee free agents will demand, though it's unlikely he'll come cheap after the year he just had. But chasing a player like Randle, rather than a higher-priced star, will also give the Knicks flexibility down the line. 

More than a few teams will probably come to the same conclusion, however, and Randle should have a nice market. So if he is indeed among the Knicks' backup plans if the Durants or Irvings of the world don't sign with them, they may find themselves with a bit of competition in that regard.