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The Blockbuster Trade That Could Save The Lakers And Knicks: Julius Randle Returns To La La Land, Russell Westbrook Finally Becomes A Knick

The Blockbuster Trade That Could Save The Lakers And Knicks: Julius Randle Returns To La La Land, Russell Westbrook Finally Become A Knick

Last year, the New York Knicks shocked the NBA world, finishing the regular season 41-31, behind their third-ranked defense and Julius Randle’s emergence as an All-Star. They got gentlemen swept in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks, but we all thought their 2020-21 regular-season success was the start of bigger things.

The Los Angeles Lakers won it all in 2019-20 and looked poised to make a deep playoff run last season, going up 2-1 in the first round against a talented Phoenix Suns before Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went down with leg injuries. Purple and Gold GM Rob Pelinka overreacted to their early playoff exit and traded for Russell Westbrook during the offseason. Fans in Hollywood thought there’d be a few bumps to start the season, but everyone assumed they’d figure it out by the turn of the new year.

Fast forward to the start of February. The Knicks and Lakers are two of the biggest disappointments in the NBA. New York is 24-27, on the outside of the play-in tourney looking in. At the same time, Los Angeles is also 24-27, good for ninth place in the Western Conference.

Julius Randle has taken a giant step back this season, and the Knicks vaunted D ranks outside the top-10. Russell Westbrook has been a disaster in LA, and the Lakers are 16th in DEFRTG and 23rd in OFFRTG.

We have the perfect trade to help salvage the Lakers and Knicks seasons:

Lakers Receive: Julius Randle, Evan Fournier, Kemba Walker, Alec Burks

Knicks Receive: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, 2027 first-round pick (via Lakers), 2023 second-round pick (via Lakers)

This cross-continent trade poses risks for NY and LA, but at this point, what do they have to lose? The Knicks are nowhere near a playoff team, and the Lakers will be lucky to win a play-in game just to make the real postseason.

Next, we’ll break down our proposed Knicks/Lakers trade and detail the benefits for each squad.

The Knicks Get A New Point Guard

Russell Westbrook

Knicks Receive: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, 2027 first-round pick (via Lakers), 2023 second-round pick (via Lakers)

Knicks Starting Lineup:

PG: Russell Westbrook

SG: Talen Horton-Tucker

SF: RJ Barrett

PF: Obi Toppin

C: Mitchell Robinson

Knicks Bench:

PG: Derrick Rose (when he returns from injury)

SG: Immanuel Quickley

SF: Quentin Grimes

PF: Cam Reddish

C: Nerlens Noel/ Taj Gibson

This entire trade centers on Julius Randle and his struggles this season.

Check out his numbers over the past three seasons compared to his stats this year:

2018-19 (New Orleans Pelicans): 21.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 34.4 3P%, -0.6 defensive box plus/minus

2019-20 (New York Knicks): 19.5 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 27.7 3P%, -1.0 DBPM

2020-21 (New York Knicks): 24.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 6.0 APG, 41.1 3P%, 0.9 DBPM

2021-22 (New York Knicks): 18.5 PPG,9.9 RPG, 5.0 APG, 30.6 3P%, 0.1 DBPM

New York Knicks fans are tugging at their collars and gripping their armchairs, realizing that 2020-21 was a massive Julius Randle outlier season. He’s not a 40-plus% three-point shooter, and he’s not a top-tier defender. He came into 2020 in amazing shape, and he balled out with his legs under him every second he was on the court.

Is it a coincidence last year was his prove-himself-for-a-new-contract-season? (Knicks fans are shaking their heads, no.) Clearly, we don’t know what changed, but the drop-off in Randle’s production and his conditioning problems this season after signing a massive $117 million extension is damning.

Going deeper into the advanced stats, Julius Randle ranks 11th on the Knicks in offensive rating at 105.5, and he has a -5.8 net rating. He’s also failing in nearly all the hustle categories, averaging only 1.2 deflections and 6.7 contested shots per game. And for the grand finale, Randle’s on/off numbers are some of the worst in the league. The Knicks are an unbelievable 17.3 points worse with their All-Star power forward on the court this season per Cleaning the Glass.

Making matters (somehow) worse, Knicks fans have begun booing Julius Randle during home contests, culminating with the former Kentucky player yelling STFU at the Madison Square Garden home crowd earlier in January.

This situation has “toxic” written all over it. Even if you believe Julius Randle is a talented player who’s slumped during the first half of the season, it’s hard to imagine the city of New York and “Orange Julius” bouncing back from this type of feud.

Knicks management needs to make a deal this season before Randle’s trade value completely tanks.

NY gets to dump Randle’s massive four-year contract in our proposed deal while also cleaning Evan Fournier’s (13.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 39.0 3P%, and -0.8 DBPM in 2021-22) four-year, $73 million deal in the process.

Perhaps you hate Russell Westbrook’s skill set, but his deal only runs through next season, and then the Knicks books will be cleared for the summer of 2023 when they’ll have a massive amount of money available they can use to entice free agents to come to NY and team up with RJ Barrett.

In the meantime, the Knicks will be better this season and next.

Despite all the negativity spewing from LA, Russell Westbrook has been better than Julius Randle this season. He’s averaging 18.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 7.7 APG, 30.9 3P%, and -0.7 DBPM. He’s a legit point guard, something the Knicks have been missing since Derrick Rose went down with an injury, capable of creating easy looks for his teammates off his drive and kick game.

Talen Horton-Tucker is a huge shooting guard with a 7-1 wingspan who has potential dripping out of him. He’ll be an upgrade over Fournier on defense, and he could prove to be the best player traded in this deal over the next few years.

This deal would unleash fan-favorite Obi Toppin into the starting lineup at the power forward position, allowing him to use his energy and athleticism to disrupt on defense for extended minutes alongside potential future All-Star RJ Barrett. Mitchell Robinson would round out the Knicks starting lineup at the center position, providing rim protection and post defense.

The Knicks would hate to lose Alec Burks off the bench, but Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose form a solid bench backcourt with Grimes, Reddish, and Noel rounding out the frontcourt.

Julius Randle Returns To La La Land

Julius Randle Los Angels Lakers

Lakers Receive: Julius Randle, Evan Fournier, Kemba Walker, Alec Burks

Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: Avery Bradley

SG: Malik Monk

SF: LeBron James

PF: Julius Randle

C: Anthony Davis

Lakers Bench:

PG: Kendrick Nunn (when he returns from injury)/ Kemba Walker

SG: Alec Burks/ Evan Fournier

SF: Trevor Ariza

PF: Stanley Johnson/ Carmelo Anthony

C: Dwight Howard/ Stanley Johnson

I just spent 400 words describing Julius Randle’s massive struggles this season, so why would the Lakers make this deal, bringing their 2014 first-round pick back to Hollywood?

It would be a risk, but the Purple and Gold would trade for Randle with the hope he can get back to 80% of the player he was last season in New York. It seems unlikely he will shoot above 40% from distance again, considering he has a career 33.4% mark from deep, and by how ugly his shot has looked this season. And it also seems unlikely he’ll morph into the defensive beast from last year, considering he’d never come close to playing that brand of stifling D before last season.

Still, Randle’s confidence looks shot in NY (hearing close to 20,000 people heckling you will do that to a man); a shift across the U.S. could give him a boost of self-assurance. Even if “Orange Julius” hits 35% from deep the rest of the season and plays hard-nosed defense, he’ll be a boon to the Lakers with his court vision and ability to get to the rack and pressure opposing defenses from the power forward spot.

Russell Westbrook’s situation in LA hasn’t gotten to the level Julius Randle has seen in NY, but things aren’t pretty for Mr. Triple-Double. Fans in Hollywood would like nothing more than to see Westbrook gone. His fit with LBJ and AD, combined with his dreadful outside shooting stroke, lazy D, and turnover problems, have helped torpedo the Lakers season.

A starting lineup with A. Bradley, M. Monk, L. James, A. Davis, and I-want-to-show-everyone-in-NY-they-were-stupid-to-boo-me, Julius Randle would be formidable.

You already know LBJ and AD form one of the best duos in the NBA behind James’s passing and overall offensive genius from the forward position and with Davis’s post-game and switch-ability on D.

Avery Bradley is an aggressive, 110% defender who can spread the floor from deep (37.9 3P%). Monk is one of the best values in the league this year. He blends his impressive three-point stroke with elite athleticism attacking the rim, and he’s playing above-average D this season, evidenced by his excellent 43.4 DFG%.

Julius Randle, if right, would take pressure off LBJ with his excellent passing skills and rim attacks. On the less glamorous end, he’d allow the Purple and Gold to play a switch-everything defense.

The Lakers would hate to pick up Evan Fournier and his massive contract, but that’s the cost of dumping Russell Westbrook and adding a potential fringe All-Star in Julius Randle.

The Purple and Gold could use Kemba Walker as their backup point guard until Kendrick Nunn returns from injury, and then he’d be an excellent insurance policy against another sidelining issue in the backcourt.

Alec Burks would help the Lakers off the bench. He’s an excellent shot maker in the lane, and he’s a career 37.6% three-point shooter who has the size at 6-6, 214 pounds to hold his own on the less fun end.

Trevor Ariza, Stanley Johnson, and Dwight Howard would form the Lakers bench frontcourt. All three are veterans who try hard on D and know how to get stops.

A Risky Two-Team Trade That Could Change The Lakers And Knicks Fortunes

This trade poses risks for the Lakers and Knicks.

NY would give up the most talented player in Julius Randle, while the Lakers would take on roughly $50 million in extended money with Randle and Fournier’s multi-year deals, which could be disastrous as soon as next year.

Still, the benefits outweigh the risks for both organizations.

New York fans are relentless, and they’ve got their fangs sunk into Julius Randle’s psyche. He needs to go somewhere new. Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker’s offense-first style has clashed with head coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive ethos. They need to go somewhere new as well.

Russell Westbrook and the Lakers had championship aspirations at the beginning of the year but are simply wasting one of LBJ’s last MVP caliber seasons with their lousy two-way play. They need to take a home run swing and bring in some fresh faces who have the potential to help salvage things.


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