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Is it the perfect time for Knicks to trade Julius Randle or Obi Toppin?

Obi Toppin and Julius Randle

Obi Toppin and Julius Randle / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

NBA trade season has begun, and the Knicks — in playoff position with expendable contracts and draft picks galore — are expected to be aggressive.

We’ve heard Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose, Cam Reddish and Immanuel Quickley mentioned already. However, there isn’t a lot of value to be found shopping that list.

Three of those players aren’t in the current rotation and two are past their prime on large contracts. Moving Fournier will cost a draft pick, Reddish, or Quickley. Perhaps they can net a first by dealing most of them, but how much does that move the needle?

An alternate approach worth exploring is dealing one of Julius Randle or Obi Toppin. Both have built up improved trade value this season and haven’t proven they can coexist on the Knicks.

Randle has been the best player on the Knicks for most of the last four seasons and the team is rolling behind him right now. There was never a chance, especially post-extension, Toppin would supplant him as the starting power forward.

But Toppin improved in his own right and could thrive in a bigger role with more of the structured offense tailored toward him. The natural awkwardness of this situation constantly hangs over the Knicks.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau gave them opportunities to play together, but the results were mixed. It’s only a solution situationally as the two make a shaky defensive pairing.

Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) passes across Philadelphia 76ers forward Paul Reed (44) in the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center

Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) passes across Philadelphia 76ers forward Paul Reed (44) in the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center / Kyle Ross – USA TODAY Sports

Both are having strong individual seasons, with Randle following up his down 2021-22 with an All-Star-worthy campaign and Toppin finding his three ball before hurting his knee. Maybe this is the best chance of rectifying the rotational logjam that’s plagued the team for years.

Randle’s Knicks career has been a roller coaster, with his contract going from albatross to good value depending on the season. If the Knicks want to get off the ride, his trade value would be high to a team needing All-Star talent on an All-Star salary.

There would be reasons to do it.

Shedding Randle would push a more fluid, pass-heavy offensive approach and further emphasize the youth movement.

They could see Randle as too inconsistent with the team culture. He was overly emotional and defensively checked out for most of last season, and moments like that still arise on his best days.

Once Toppin is healthy, the Knicks would get a real look at what he brings to the table. They’d also have likely collected some additional depth and draft capital, along with increased salary cap flexibility.

They could also flip Randle for a similarly-valued player who will keep their talent level untouched, but there doesn’t appear to be a real opportunity for that.

On the other hand, stars win games and Randle’s been the Knicks’ best star to date. It would be shocking for them to deal him in the midst of lots of winning.

As far as Toppin, he is about to turn 25, is due for an extension and still generally looks unpolished. The bench defense has looked much better without him. Swapping him for a bigger defensive wing or pure stretch shooter could pay dividends for both parties.

With Toppin hurt, the Knicks would likely wait to trade him, and he wouldn’t return much compared to a conceptual Randle deal. They could attach him to Fournier to get off that contract, but that seems like a waste.

Dumping Toppin for a pick and moving Reddish full-time to the four would be worth exploring, but even in Toppin’s absence Thibodeau won’t play Reddish. Packaging him with Quickley or Reddish could possibly net the Knicks a legitimate upgrade.

How much youth are you willing to give up for a Bojan Bogdanovic or Jae Crowder, though?

These questions, among many others, are the ones the Knicks front office will have to ponder for the next few months. The team is playing well and has the goods to upgrade further, but it’ll have to be the right deal.

This may be one of the few chances New York gets to better align their roster. Will they take it?



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