The Julius Randle-Obi Toppin problem hangs over the Knicks’ offseason

Rate it as the most truthful remark Knicks president Leon Rose made about his vision during Sunday’s interview with MSG Network.

Rose supported Julius Randle and his tough season, but later added: “In terms of opportunities that may come, we are very flexible.”

The Knicks will be “very flexible” with regard to Randle. His status ranks as the Knicks’ biggest offseason issue – along with Rose’s ability to land a legitimate starting-point guard in either a trade, draft or free agency.

Obi Toppin’s late appearance as a goal scorer, 3-point shooter and energy giver has opened the eyes of coach Tom Thibodeau, who went so far as to compare him to his all-time favorite player, Taj Gibson, in terms of the intangible things and the leap he brings to. his teammates.

Trading with Randle, if they can get the same value, would open up the starting spot for Toppin next season and perhaps create stronger team morale.

Those things mean something to Thibodeau.

Obi Toppin, Julius Randle
AP, Charles Wenzelberg

In response to Rose’s remark that Randle “was not comfortable” this season, Thibodeau replied, “Well, I do not know if he is comfortable, but I think the big thing is, let’s not be mistaken, “He’s not talented. He did not shoot the 3rd as well as he did a year ago, but he’s still 20, 10 and 5. It’s talent. It’s a great talent.”

Thibodeau, however, liked how the Knicks sent the ball when Randle was not on the field in the last five games. Randle shut it down late with a sore quad.

But his enigmatic demeanor was a problem much of the season. It began with a “thumbs down” gesture to the Garden audience in early January, continued with a media boycott, escalated with a quarrel in Los Angeles with a laptop held by an assistant coach and culminated in Randle deciding not to join his teammates for introduction to the national anthem or pregame lineup at road races.

Garden fans shouting Toppin’s name when Randle was on the field had to be a blow to a player who justly lifted the Knicks to their first playoff spot in eight years a season ago.

“I think we had our ups and downs this year and when you are that type of player he will get criticism,” Thibodeau said. “I get criticism. It’s going with the turf here. So you handle it, come back, use it as motivation. I know one thing: Julius will be in the gym all summer.”

Obi Toppin
Obi Toppin showed off his improved ability to score while Julius Randle was sent off.
Jason Coal

If the Knicks can not trade Randle for a fair package, Thibodeau may have to explore a small-ball package with Randle at the center and Toppin at the power forward. Thibodeau, however, hates it from a defensive point of view.

There will be teams interested in the tough Randle, whose $ 117 million four-year contract extension begins next season with $ 23.7 million. That is not an exaggerated number at all. Randle is on top of all opponents’ scouting reports and is a sensational steamroller to the hanger when in the right mood.

If the Knicks do not get draft picks and a legitimate starter back, it may not be worth it – unless Randle formally demands a trade. The Mavericks would be an interesting scenario if the Knicks engage Dallas in sign-and-trade talks for free-agent point guard Jalen Brunson. Randle is from Dallas and usually makes chaos when he plays in Big D.

“We had new players, it was hard to develop chemistry right from the hand,” Thibodeau said. “But Julius is best when he runs on the floor, plays fast or attacks the edge. When he did, he had a number of great games. He would be the first to tell you that. When he does and we spray the ball and it moves fast, we’re good. I hope we have learned from the All Star break. ”

Thibodeau had been skeptical of Toppin’s defense and 3-point shooting. In the middle of the season, Toppin stopped looking at the basket when he got the ball deep out. He closed the season at 30.6 percent from 3, but 46 percent in the last five games when he started after Randle sat.

The Randle-Toppin riddle is going to annoy Rose, Randle’s former agent, out of season.

Julius Randle is on the field during the Knicks' season-ending victory over the Raptors.
Julius Randle is on the field during the Knicks’ season-ending victory over the Raptors.
Jason Coal

Like the point guard position after the Kemba Walker / Derrick Rose tandem turned into an unresolved disaster. Rose underwent ankle surgery in December, and Walker stopped in February.

Meanwhile, Brunson, whose father, Rick, was Leon Rose’s first client as an agent, is expected to be their top point guard target. The draft is not well stocked with game-creating point guards. The Knicks (37-45) are the lottery’s 12th seed with a 7.2 percent chance of jumping to a top-three pick.

All things may be decided on the backfield if Utah superstar combo guard Donovan Mitchell, the Westchester product, requests a barter. The Knicks would likely lose RJ Barrett in the trade, but it could be a franchise changer.

Thibodeau, late Sunday night, did not want to have specific needs.

“Unlike you [the media]’I actually have to look and dig into it,’ ‘Thibodeau said. “I can say that I have ideas, which I have. Some. But I want to be sure. I want to dig deep into it and formulate the plan for next year. ”

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