Why Julius Randle $117 Million Knicks Extension Is Smart for Both Sides

  • Julius Randle signed a 4-year, $117 million extension with the Knicks.
  • The move rewards Randle for a surprise All-Star berth and gives him a long-term deal until he is 30.
  • The deal could be a steal for the Knicks but is not damaging if he regresses.

Julius Randle’s extension with the New York Knicks looks like one of the rare win-win moves for player and team in the NBA.

Coming off the first All-Star season of his career and an All-NBA 2nd Team selection, Randle and the Knicks agreed to a four-year extension worth $117 million. ESPN reported the extension earlier in August, and it was made official by the team on Friday.

Randle’s breakout season in 2020-21 represented one of the greatest and most unlikely leaps in NBA history. Randle was coming off a disappointing first season with the Knicks, rankling fans with his isolation-heavy, inefficient scoring, and turnover-prone play in addition to a passive approach to defense.

Few players seemingly transform into new players in their seventh seasons, yet Randle did, averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and a 14-point increase in three-point percentage. He became just the second player in league history to post a 20-10-6 season on 40% three-point shooting (Larry Bird is the other). 

Randle’s extension with the Knicks rewards him for his excellent play and guards the Knicks against a regression in future years.

Randle cashes in on a career year now

julius randle

Troy Taormina/Pool Photo/AP Images

If Randle wanted to bet on himself, he could have played out the 2021-22 season, then hit free agency in 2022. Had he produced another All-Star campaign in ’21-22, he would have been eligible for a five-year max contract from the Knicks worth about $200 million.

Of course, that option came with risks. If Randle regressed from his stellar 2020-21 play, he would have also risked losing out on a big payday and perhaps signing a deal similar to the one he signed in 2019 — a three-year, $63 million contract. That’s hardly a travesty, but still a far cry from his $117 million extension.

Randle, after all, is coming off a disappointing postseason in which he shot just 29% from the field and 33% from three and turned the ball over 4 times per game. He looked largely overwhelmed with being a leading man on offense against a defense designed to slow him down.

It’s not unreasonable to imagine Randle regressing slightly next season. As mentioned, his three-point shooting last year is a huge outlier in his career. He also hit a remarkable number of deep two-point shots and closely contested jumpers.

Amid a strange, mostly fan-less, pandemic-ravaged season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Randle’s shooting percentages fall closer to his career averages. It would bring him down a notch from “One of the 10 best players in the NBA” that his All-NBA selection suggested to simply “Very good power forward.”

The Knicks got a steal at best and a palatable contract at worst

However, if Randle can keep up his level of play from 2020-21 and it wasn’t an aberration, then the Knicks signed an All-Star forward to a long-term deal at a below-market rate.

In the first year of Randle’s extension, he’ll make $23.7 million — that would have made Randle the 44th highest-paid player in the NBA last year, according to Spotrac. Randle has a player option worth $29 million for 2025-26, and while that number may look big, consider that there are already five players scheduled to make over $50 million that season (and likely more to come).

The contract is still fairly palatable in the worst-case scenario, where Randle’s play falls off so dramatically that he becomes a below-average player.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the salary cap for the 2022-23 season is projected at $119 million. Randle would be taking up about a fifth of the Knicks’ salary cap space, a large number, but not overly damaging.

Furthermore, no contract is unmovable in today’s NBA. With a surplus of future draft picks, the Knicks are well-positioned to move Randle if they had to, even if they had to attach picks as an incentive.

After years of stop-and-start rebuilds, the Knicks couldn’t afford to risk letting an All-Star player go or grow unhappy with his contractual status. In turn, they rewarded Randle for an out-of-the-blue All-NBA season while also hedging against a regression.

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