New York Knicks: Re-Capping the First Night of Free Agency

New York Knicks sign Julius Randle.

During last night’s eventful start to free agency, especially for the lowly New York Knicks, I was reminded of a quote by former Notre Dame football head coach Lou Holtz. Holtz, speaking about his school, said: “Those who know Notre Dame, no explanation is necessary. Those who don’t, no explanation will suffice.”

I think this quote applies really well to Knicks fans.  I tried in vain to sift through my messages, most of them quips from friends whose agenda was simply to make me miserable or incredulous asks of “why?” 

For those who know James Dolan, ergo Knicks fans, no explanation is necessary. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Dolan withheld the maximum amount of money for Kevin Durant. That’s right, Dolan had the audacity to not give Kevin Durant his money. Torn Achilles or not, he’s Kevin Durant, and he’s so much better than anyone else on the Knicks that it is laughable.



Those who don’t know the Knicks, i.e. the outside world, no explanation will suffice. For all the friends who texted, snapchatted, or direct messaged you all last night, I’m sure it seemed impossible to explain that this is who Dolan is, and this what being a Knicks fan is like. Even after a fairly smart signing later on, the jokes came left and right on Twitter.

 

 

 

But when an opportunity to pile on Knicks fans arises, no doubt everyone on Twitter and in the workplace and in the streets will do anything possible to take advantage. This simply comes with the territory as Knicks fans.

Welcome, Julius Randle

Lost in the madness of free agency was a very solid pivot by Perry and Mills in Julius Randle. There had long been mutual interest here, and the Knicks ultimately gave Randle a three year deal for 63 million dollars with a team option for the third year. 

Randle, 24, is coming off a career year in which he averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, while shooting 52 percent from the field, 34 percent from three, and 73 percent from the free throw line.

He’s a very intriguing fit on this Knicks roster, as he slides into the starting power forward position with ease, and is a nice complement to Mitchell Robinson. He is a player who has improved almost every year and will get ample opportunity in New York to prove he has the goods.

Offensively, Randle is extremely impressive. He can score from all three levels and is relatively efficient while doing it. He plays a throwback style in which he tries to bully his way to the rim, and he has shown flashes of being an above average playmaker. Randle had the seventh-best true shooting percentage of players who scored over 20 points per game last year (Michael Nania on Twitter). 

Defensively, though, Randle is underwhelming. He lacks the requisite effort, and despite solid athletic measurables, he has little to no defensive impact. His defensive box plus/minus was below league average at -0.4, and his defensive win shares (1.9) is average. He has all the defensive potential in the world but has not proven his worth.

And Goodbye, Kevin Durant

With the announcement that Kevin Durant is signing with the Brooklyn Nets and the subsequent report that Dolan did not offer the max, many Knicks fans (myself included) felt sick to their stomach. After a year in which every media report said that Durant was sure to come to the Knicks and that it was a “done deal,” the realization that KD will be playing across the bridge is a tough one to swallow.



However, I think we as Knicks fans can take solace in the fact that signing Kevin Durant is a huge risk, as he has a torn Achilles and that there is no guarantee that he will ever be his former self. Sure, his star power would have been exciting, but the track record for players who tear their Achilles is not very good. 

Durant may well be just as good as he was, and Brooklyn may well win a championship with KD and Kyrie Irving. But the Knicks are building a young team, and they added a good player in Julius Randle. If they can win some games next season and develop their young players, there could be success down the road. 

Re-visiting the Kristaps Porzingis Trade

Finally, the Porzingis trade. A common topic of humor for media members and fans of opposing teams Sunday night was mocking the Knicks for trading Porzingis, only to sign Julius Randle in the offseason. 

First off, they did not trade Porzingis just to get max cap space. Yes, it was a factor. Maybe even the biggest factor. But Porzingis is a seven-foot-three player who currently has an accusation of rape against him. Also, he didn’t want to play in New York. I’m perfectly okay clearing bad contracts and acquiring Dennis Smith Jr. and two future first rounders.

Secondly, even if the primary objective was to clear space, the Knicks had no way to know that Kevin Durant would tear his Achilles. By all accounts, had Durant not torn his Achilles, he’d be a Knick. I’m not going to penalize Perry for a freak injury.

The trade was fine, and it gave the Knicks the opportunity to get a fresh start, something they badly needed. Now, Frank Ntilikina is the longest-tenured player, and he and Dameyean Dotson remain the only mainstays from the Phil Jackson era.

While the Knicks will certainly not be contending for the title anytime soon, I would argue that the future looks pretty bright. Smith Jr., RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Ntilikina, Dotson, Allonzo Trier, Iggy Bradzeikis, six first-round picks over the next four years, and 41 million in cap space. Not too shabby if you ask me. 

There are about ten (and maybe this is way low-balling it) days a year where it REALLY sucks to be a Knicks fan. Sunday was certainly one of those days. But while the whole world makes fun of us, let’s put our heads down, rally around this young team, and hope for the best. Godspeed.