The perfect contract: You rarely get that in sports. Of course, we may revisit this down the line and think otherwise, but for now, for this moment in time, Julius Randle’s extension with the New York Knicks is perfect for business.
In 2020-21, while leading the Knicks to a No. 4 seed, widely outperforming the public’s preseason expectations, Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game on 46 / 41 / 81 shooting splits from the field, three-point range, and the free-throw line. Following his first All-Star campaign and 2021 Most Improved Player honor, the bully-ball four appeared in his first playoff series, where he was memorably lackluster, posting 18.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game, but only shooting 30 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. The Knicks went down in five to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. However, the wipeout gentleman’s sweep grew more justifiable post-series, as the Trae Young-led Georgia-based club continued to march all the way to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Randle will make around $20 million this coming season, which is the final of a three-year deal he signed with the club after they missed out on Kevin Durant in the summer of 2019. The $20 million or so number, or anywhere in that neighborhood, is a bargain for someone coming off Randle’s 2020-21 in the modern NBA. The extension he just signed is a wise one as well: $106.5 million guaranteed for the next four seasons, beginning in 2022, where Randle will be entering season-nine in the league. The deal is reportedly worth up to $117 million depending on incentives, putting him at roughly $25-$30 million a year annually after this coming season. According to ESPN NBA Analyst and Front Office Insider Bobby Marks, the incentives that could bring the deal to $117 million are both individual accolades and team-based accomplishments, as he noted in a tweet earlier today.
Randle’s still only 26, and when the new contract expires in 2026, he’ll be 31 that summer. As Marks did note, however, the final season is a player option, which is customary in the NBA, and would give Randle the choice of reentering the market in 2025 while months away from turning 31. [Shoutout to the November babies!]
The $106.5 million was the max New York could offer Randle this summer. Had Randle opted to play out this contract and sign a new one next summer, he could’ve been offered more, but it obviously depended on how this next season goes. It’ll be difficult for Randle to replicate such a fantastic 2020-21, but if you’re the Knicks, you have a better team around him, so you might not even need to. For the Knicks, big contractual decisions loom on others that the organization will gain intel on throughout the season. Most notable here: 2019 No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett.
Barrett is extension eligible beginning next summer, and if he has a huge third year, it could result in a max contract. Mitchell Robinson, who is entering the last of a four-year deal, is also due a possible extension, though the Knicks did retain Nerlens Noel for three years and $32 million. The deal includes a team option, so Noel would, in theory, be easy to trade next summer if the Knicks did choose to keep Robinson. Getting Randle’s deal accounted for was smart for the Knicks, who generally have had a wise off-season on paper. This all leads to Randle having at least $125 million in guaranteed money over the next five seasons if he wants it, taking him closer to $140 million depending on whether or not he fulfills those incentives.
And that’s why it works for Randle. Sure, maybe he gets more money if he waits, but the amount at that point wouldn’t have been too dramatically different. Randle gets taken care of in a way that will provide beyond generational wealth, guaranteed at his leisure since he has a player option for the final go-round, and if all continues to go well, he’ll make plenty of money away from the Madison Square Garden floor because of the partnerships that arrive with being a star with the Knicks. They’re locked into each other, and for right now, it’s the correct thing to do — for the rabid New York fans and the direction of the team..