Why the Knicks Have Had A Successful Free Agency

The Knicks were supposed to draft Zion Williamson and sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Knicks “struck out” and went 0-3.

Instead, they settled for RJ Barrett, the guy ranked #1 in the 2018 high school class, who averaged 22 ppg in his one year at Duke.

Kyrie Irving “came home”, but signed with Brooklyn instead of New York. Irving snubs the Knicks, after a rough two year run in Boston where he failed to lead them to the NBA Finals and alienated his teammates to the point where fans and players are happy he is gone from Boston.

Kevin Durant left the Warriors dynasty to come to New York but joined Kyrie in Brooklyn. Durant is confirmed to miss the entire 2019-20 season with a ruptured achillies and will return in 2020 with three years left on his contract at age 32 with major questions due to the significance of his injury and the fact that rarely has anyone recovered fully from this operation.

The failure to sign a nut case PG and an injured forward comes months after the Knicks traded the franchise’s most recent All Star Kristaps Porzingis. According to, well everyone, the Knicks traded Porzingis for nothing. But for the first time ever, the Knicks acquired first round picks (and didn’t send them out) and cleared significant cap space. Now, the money was supposed to be earmarked for Kyrie and Durant, but Tim Hardaway Jr, to put it kindly, was not an excellent basketball player. Shedding him from the roster allowed the Knicks the flexibility to move in a different direction.

“Porzingis was traded for nothing”. This is a funny sentiment. Kemba Walker literally left Charlotte for nothing. Boston literally got nothing for Kyrie Irving. But the Knicks did not get nothing. They got a promising young PG Dennis Smith Jr and they added veteran center DeAndre Jordan, who was reportedly an excellent mentor to Mitchell Robinson in the last couple months of the 2019 season. They also added two future first round picks.

A guy who wanted out, who made public comments disparaging the organization, who threatened to not sign his qualifying offer this summer, was traded for literally something. Much has been made about the Knicks culture and dysfunction, so why keep a guy whose causing some of that chaos.

As a Knicks fan, obviously I am disappointed. I woke up every day for months and months dreaming of a world where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving play at MSG 41 times a year. I’m upset and frustrated but I think it’s a great move for them and wish them well and hope it works out for the Nets. But now what, for the Knicks?

Well, now they invest their cap space into adding good, quality NBA players. That sounds stupid, but if you’ve watched the Knicks or peaked at their roster the last few years, you would know this team lacked good, quality NBA players.

There’s a lot of talk that “Julius Randle won’t sell tickets”. Well, why does he have to? Every Knicks game is sold out. Every game is premium priced on secondary markets. Knicks don’t need someone to help sell out MSG, the Knicks and MSG does that itself. What the Knicks need is good, quality NBA players.

Julius Randle averaged career numbers in 2019 with the Pelicans and PF was by far the Knicks biggest need. They also signed Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, and Elfrid Payton. Each of these guys was affordable for a reason but they all have their strengths and will all benefit the Knicks one way or another.

This was the right move. No more tanking. The Nets got those free agents because of the winning culture they have developed. The Knicks won 17 games in 2019. Why would any top tier guy sign with a team that won 17 games?

All of the players signed by the Knicks, with the exception of Randle, received a 1+1 contract (guaranteed contract for 2019-20 with team option for 2020). That means Knicks have flexibility to cut everyone and dip into free agency next year, they could trade these guys at trade deadline if they have value, they can trade them next summer as expiring deals, or perhaps they show enough value to stick around. Either way, it’s hard to spin these moves as a loss.

Knicks added a strong low post veteran (Gibson) to help groom Mitchell Robinson. Randle will start at PF and play a lot of minutes. Portis is still young (24 years old) and has flashed a lot of potential at times. Ellington and Bullock are both good three point shooters who can defend. And Elfrid Payton is a serviceable backup PG.

Obviously, the Knicks haven’t moved the needle with these signings. They were a 17 win team in 2019 and might be a 25-30 win team in 2020. But that’s progress. And not doing anything stupid is progress.

And what if, I don’t know, the #1 recruit from 2018, RJ Barrett, proves to be a better pro than Zion Williamson? Is that so crazy? What if Kyrie Irving implodes the Nets locker room, like he did in Boston? What if Kevin Durant is never the same player?

Knicks mockery is always going to be a crowd pleaser and #sayKnicksforclicks has been a huge hit on twitter. But let’s revisit this conversation a few years down the road and see if the last 24 hours weren’t actually a turning point for the franchise and the start of something special as opposed to “the worst moment in franchise history”.


Follow me on twitter @msschneid for more Knicks and NBA takes

About Mike Schneid 530 Articles
Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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