When the New York Knicks lost out on top-flight free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they pivoted to mid-tier veterans on short-term deals. The lone free agent to sign with the Knicks for a guaranteed two years was forward Julius Randle.
Randle -- who signed a three-year, $63 million deal with a partial guarantee in the final season -- was coming off of a solid year with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Knicks signed Randle to be their lead option for the season.
A capable scorer, Randle's scoring average had increased in all five of his NBA seasons prior to this one. His ability to rebound the ball, but also leading a fastbreak charge as a frontcourt player, made him an intriguing player.
There was hope that Randle could become a number one offensive option for the Knicks, but his flaws have still stood out at times. Never much of a three-point shooter, Randle showed signs last year, shooting 34.4 percent on 195 attempts.
This year, Randle has already surpassed his career-high for three-point attempts with 27 more games left. He's shot a paltry 26.4 percent from beyond the three-point line.
There have been many occasions where Randle has settled for perimeter attempts due to the crowd of defenders waiting for him at the rim. He's taking a career-low 35.1 percent of shots around the rim, according to Basketball Reference.
Randle's fit with Mitchell Robinson and R.J. Barrett is extremely important. At just 21 and 19, respectively, Robinson and Barrett are the two players most crucial to New York's success down the road. It's important that Randle mesh well with those two pillars of the future.
Since assistant Mike Miller was promoted to interim head coach for David Fizdale, whom the Knicks fired Dec. 6, Randle and Robinson have worked better as a duo. They are a plus-4.6 points per 100 possessions. Questions will still arise though because of the awkward fit.
Outside of their commitment to Randle, the Knicks also signed big men Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson. New York's obsession with power forwards has also caused Randle to stay glued to the power forward position.
After playing at least 26 percent of his minutes as a center in each of the past four seasons, Randle's seen just five percent of his minutes at the center spot. Randle is at his best when he's playing in space and making quick decisions.
Having another traditional center like Gibson or Robinson on the court has at times caused spacing problems. Add in a point guard position with no quality three-point shooting, and it makes sense why Randle and the Knicks have struggled.
New York's offensive structure hasn't allowed Randle to play that way. Ranked 21st in pace, the Knicks are one of the slowest teams in the NBA.
Randle would've been a better fit with former Knick Kristaps Porzingis, now on the Dallas Mavericks. Porzingis' ability to space the floor as a three-point shooter and his ability to protect the rim would've perfectly complemented Randle and his paint bound game.
The Knicks missed out on an opportunity. Randle, Barrett and Robinson are all interesting talents, but it's hard to envision that group working out with how poor the outside shooting is.
Even if you add two plus-three-point shooters to the lineup, the spacing is tricky to work around. It's a very young trio, but as we've seen with the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons pairing in Philadelphia, spacing is everything.
Through six years in the league, it's fair to question Randle's value to a winning team. He's not good enough to carry a club to a playoff spot as a number one option, but what would he look like with more quality talent surrounded around him?
He's never received that chance. The Lakers were too young and last year, he joined a Pelicans team that underwent the Anthony Davis trade saga.
But that's also why the Knicks' overpay works out. Randle sacrificed a full guarantee in the final year of the three-year contract in exchange for the high annual total payout of $36.9 million in the first two seasons.
There's hope for Randle to take another leap. He's just 25 years old and could still make some improvements to his game. The question is whether the Knicks will build a team that fits his strengths rather than a team that enhances his weaknesses.