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The Knicks and Julius Randle sit at the nexus of an evolving offseason

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Thibs gives Stephen A. the secrets behind the Knicks' improvements (3:43)

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau joins Stephen A's World to break down what went into developing the team into a true playoff contender. (3:43)

As Julius Randle roars down the stretch of a breakout season, the guidance on his future with the New York Knicks has pivoted dramatically.

With a non-guaranteed contract for next year and a new regime in New York, Randle was seen as a likely trade target by league executives just a few months ago. While the Knicks now focus on a vital road trip in which they look to lock up their first playoff berth in eight years, another priority has emerged on the horizon.

Many top stars who could've been free agents in 2021 -- LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George and Jrue Holiday among them -- signed extensions during this season. The sudden drop of an anticipated 2021 free-agent class has caused a ripple effect for the coming offseason -- teams have turned their attention to extending their own 2022 free agents.

Randle is a prime example and, for the Knicks, has gone from a maybe to a must-have.