If we were to compare free agency to a regulation NBA game, most
Knicks fans were discouraged by New York's first-quarter
performance, believing their favorite team stumbled out of the
On Monday, the first day that front offices were able to start
negotiating with players available on the open market, Knicks fans
learned that the team had inked Evan Fournier to a four-year deal
worth as much as $78 million and re-signed Derrick Rose (to a
three-year, $43 million contract), Alec Burks (to a three-year, $30
million contract) and Nerlens Noel (to a three-year, $32 million
SNY initially reported that Burks'
three-year deal was fully guaranteed. When no additional contract
details were reported, Knicks fans feared the worst: that all of
the pacts were fully guaranteed. Many New York supporters went to
bed feeling distressed and pessimistic on Monday night.
The Knicks entered this summer's free-agency frenzy with north
of $50 million in cap space, which was more than any other team in
the league. Fans were hoping the team would make a significant
splash with all that cash. Committing $183 million in guaranteed
salaries to Fournier, Rose, Burks and Noel was not what they had in
However, on Tuesday morning, reports began to trickle out that
the new contracts included team-friendly terms. Eventually,
multiple outlets confirmed that all four pacts had a team option
for the final season. That made each of the deals far more
palatable, as it means each contract is far easier to trade and
that New York has more cap flexibility moving forward. The fanbase
was starting to come around. However, the franchise had burned
through most of their cap space and still didn't have a clear-cut
starting point guard on the roster.
But New York woke up to some wonderful news on Wednesday
morning. Kemba Walker, who was born and raised in the Bronx, was
coming home to NYC. After being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder
by the Boston Celtics, Walker agreed to a buyout with the Thunder
and would be joining the Knicks. He would be paid approximately $9
million per year — a relative bargain for a starting point guard of
his caliber. Knicks fans rejoiced.
The following morning, Knicks fans once again were greeted with
excellent news. The team's best player, Julius Randle, had agreed
to a four-year extension. Like Walker, Randle decided to forgo a
more profitable payday for the opportunity to play in Madison
On Friday, team president Leon Rose, capologist Brock Aller, and
general manager Scott Perry put a bow on a banner week by
announcing the team had signed guard Miles "Deuce" McBride — the
36th overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft — to a contract. The
announcement's timing is important because it means the Knicks
likely used their available cap space to sign McBride.
Consequently, his contract can run up to four years, including team
options, instead of just two.
Let's take a quick look at the significance of each new
Fournier will provide much-needed three-point marksmanship and
shot creation to an offense that was often stagnant for long
stretches last season. Despite suffering through a debilitating
bout of COVID-19 and its lingering side effects (Fournier compared
its impact to a concussion), he finished the 2020-21 campaign
shooting a scorching 46.3% from downtown.
Over the past two seasons combined, Fournier is one of only
eight players in the league to average more than 6.5 three-point
attempts per game while shooting over 40% from downtown. The other
seven players in the club are Steph Curry, Duncan Robinson, Bogdan
BogdanoviÄ‡, Davis Bertans, Bojan BogdanoviÄ‡, Paul George and
Having Fournier replace Reggie Bullock in the starting lineup
will hurt New York on the defensive end of the floor, but the
Knicks finished last season ranked inside the top-five in defensive
efficiency, while they ranked 22nd overall in offensive
Is Kemba Walker's left knee a concern? Absolutely. But if Kemba
is even 80% healthy, he would immediately rank as the best point
guard to wear a Knicks uniform since George W. Bush was in the
White House. Over the past six seasons combined, dating back to the
start of 2015-16, Walker has averaged 22.2 points, 5.4 assists, 3.9
rebounds and 2.9 made three-pointers. Only three players have
matched or exceeded those per-game averages: Steph Curry, James
Harden and Damian Lillard.
Even in a down season last year, Walker averaged 19.3 points,
4.9 dimes and 3.0 made treys a night. In the 75-year history of the
Knicks franchise, no point guard has ever averaged at least 19.0
points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 triples in any single season.
It's been more than 30 years since a Knicks point guard played
in an All-Star game (Mark Jackson in 1989). Walker has been named
an All-Star in four of the past five seasons.
Elfrid Payton logged a total of 1,484 minutes last season, the
second-most among all guards on the team. Having a combination of
Walker and Rose inherit all those minutes in 2021-22 represents a
massive upgrade for a team that finished 10 games over .500 last
The Knicks faced zone defenses more than any team in the league
last season. With Kemba and Fournier now in the starting lineup,
opposing defenses will hesitate to switch to zone. And having Kemba
run pick-and-rolls should significantly enhance the vertical
spacing threat a healthy Mitchell Robinson brings to the table.
Walker's ability to penetrate into the paint will also produce
substantial dividends, as he draws fouls on opposing bigs and racks
up points at the charity stripe. Over his two seasons in New York
(108 total games), Payton made 122 free throws. In just 43 games
last season for the Celtics, Walker made 143 free throws.
If New York had to pay market value for a point guard with
Walker's skillset and resume, it would have been worth the cost.
The fact that the Knicks will pay him less than $10 million makes
the signing a steal.
Did Julius Randle struggle mightily in the playoffs? Absolutely.
Would the Knicks have advanced to the postseason and secured
home-court advantage for just the second time this century if
Randle hadn't carried the team on his back all year? Absolutely
Randle put together one of the most impressive all-around
campaigns in franchise history, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2
rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. To help put his 2020-21 regular
season stats in context, consider this. Randle:
- grabbed more boards than Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel
- dished out more assists than LeBron James and Stephen
- scored more points than Jayson Tatum and Trae Young;
- shot a higher three-point percentage than Damian Lillard and
- posted a higher effective field goal percentage than Anthony
Davis and Paul George;
- accumulated more win shares than Luka Doncic and James
- recorded a higher player efficiency rating than Devin Booker
and Kyle Lowry;
- posted a higher box plus/minus than Jrue Holiday and Donovan
- registered a higher value over replacement player than Rudy
Gobert and Chris Paul.
Coming off an All-NBA-Second-Team campaign, Randle had the
opportunity to play out the upcoming season and hit the open market
as an unrestricted free agent next summer. At that point, he would
have been eligible for a max contract worth north of $200 million.
Instead, he inked a four-year, $107 million extension that can
increase to $117 million if specific incentives are met. Randle is
only 26 years old and just now entering the heart of his prime.
To put Randle's contract in perspective, compare it to some of
the other lucrative deals signed this month. DeMar DeRozan, already
32 years old, will earn an average of $28.3 million over the next
three seasons. Jimmy Butler will earn $51.6 million in the final
year of his contract (2025-26), at which point he will be 36 years
old. That same season, Randle will be 30 and in the final year of
his contract and will earn $29.4 million. Randle is younger than
Duncan Robinson and Norm Powell, both of whom inked $90 million
deals. Randle is the same age as Devonte' Graham and Kendrick Nunn.
Randle is three years younger than Tim Hardaway Jr.
Last season, Randle told reporters that he hoped to be a Knick
"for the rest of my career, that's really what I want." Players say
such things all the time, yet when they have an opportunity to cash
in, they (understandably) hold out for the highest offer. Randle,
however, quite literally put his money where his mouth is.
When you consider where the Knicks were just 10 months ago, the
progress the franchise has made is remarkable. First, they vastly
exceeded expectations on the court and then continued to build on
that success thus far this offseason.
For years, various New York front-office executives have failed
to persuade stars to sign on the dotted line. This past week, not
only did New York add an All-Star-caliber point guard, but that
point guard could have joined pretty much any team in the league
and he opted for the Knicks.
Then the team's best player, fresh off a season in which he
finished inside the top-10 in MVP voting, re-upped with New York
for significantly less than market value. It’s certainly a sign of
progress for the franchise and a validation of what the
organization is hoping to create.
When pundits talk about teams incrementally "developing a
culture,” this is what they mean.
After another step in the right direction this week, fans can
feel confident that the Knicks will continue building momentum