The Knicks are not a destination for Premier Free Agents... but hope remains

In February the Knicks took a gamble. They traded their best prospect since Patrick Ewing to offload crappy contracts in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee. The selling point to fans was simple: This would create two max slots to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Dolan went on The Michael Kay Show stating, "Look, New York is the Mecca of basketball. We hear from people all the time, from players and representatives about who wants to come. We can’t respond because of the NBA rules, etc. But that doesn’t stop them from telling us, and they do. I can tell you, from what we’ve heard, I think we’re gonna have a very successful offseason when it comes to free agents."

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July 1st provided us with a different outcome and the narrative across the media remains constant: The Knicks are a joke. We can speculate Porzingis’ health all we want. There is a legitimate argument that the Knicks dodged a bullet by trading away Porzingis before being forced to max out the tallest NBA player in NBA history that is recovering from a torn ACL. Regardless, Porzingis is considered a commodity across the league, and not a player you just package with a salary dump.

It is also worth noting the Knicks obtained two first-rounders from Dallas in addition to the cap space, although by the time they get those picks, it is likely that Dallas will be a playoff team and the picks will not be as valuable.

Let’s go over how the Knicks did this offseason.

As Predicted, the Knicks Struck out

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Durant and Kyrie signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

The Knicks signing Durant and his ruptured Achilles to a max deal will remind pessimists of Antonio McDyess and Amar’e Stoudemire. Durant will not play another game until he is 32 years old.

He has also proven to carry a team in an efficient manner. He averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists for his career with an effective field goal percentage of 55%. To put that in perspective, Durant is more efficient than Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Even if Durant came back half the player he once was, he still had the potential to be the best player the Knicks have seen this century.

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Many Celtics fans will tell you Kyrie is a cancer. The Celtics went further in the playoffs the season when he was out and Terry Rozier picked up the slack as the floor general. It can be argued that Kyrie ruined the chemistry of a terrific young core in Boston.

Kyrie, on the other hand, had his most efficient season averaging 24 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists while shooting 40% from three and 49% from the field. Comparing Kyrie to a Stephon Marbury would be incorrect, at least on the floor.

We can keep making excuses, but no matter what the narrative is, there is no way to swing it. If the Knicks signed Durant and Kyrie, Knicks fans would have held a parade outside of Madison Square Garden on July 1st.

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One of the ex Knicks above needs to tell James Dolan what's what. A serious reality check is in need. Superstars do not want to join a team that has proven to be a dumpster fire, while acting as lightning rod for the press.

Why did the Nets end up with Durant and Kyrie instead of the Knicks?

Durant and Kyrie wanted to join forces in a big market. Brooklyn finished dead last in attendance last year. What gives?

The Nets’ famous trade for Paul Pierce and KG that ruined their immediate future has been overshadowed by the competence of Coach Kenny Atkinson and GM Sean Marks.

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For the past three years, the Nets have been lurking under the shadows preparing for the moment to strike. They have acquired assets, young promising prospects, and smart deals while the Knicks signed Joakim Noah and Tim Hardaway to a combined $143 million.

Last season, the Nets were a 6-seed while the Knicks held the worst record in the league. The Nets deserved to sign Durant and Kyrie, not the Knicks.

Why Knicks fans should remain optimistic

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When Durant and Kyrie were signed, I experienced severe Déjà vu. I was petrified they would make the same mistake they made when Donnie Walsh was trading away the likes of Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford to create cap space for the King: LeBron James, only to strike out and sign second tier free agent Amar’e Stoudemire, the king of wine baths.

I respect Knicks GM Scott Perry after consistently staying the course with this rebuild. They had a chance to trade for Eric Bledsoe, who I think is a good player, but did not fit the Knicks' timetable. They passed. They also could have offered max contracts to players like Terry Rozier and Boogie Cousins. They passed.

Instead they signed the following:

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  • Julius Randle

    • Modern Zach Randolph. Hard-nosed player who will grab boards, bully people down low, but with more bounce than Rainbow Randolph. This dude is a bulldozer. He will be a fan favorite day one with his hard-nosed play.

    • To all of you Fantasy Basketball Players out there, Julius Randle will be a steal in the 3rd/4th round

    • Unfortunately, his defense is inconsistent, but the potential is there. This is a situation where Coach Fizdale needs to earn his pay check. If Fiz is able to turn Randle into a plus defender, then he has All-Star potential.

  • Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington

    • Their roles are simple, fire away from three! We live in a data driven league. Three points are worth more than two, and the Knicks have been a poor three point shooting team for over a half decade now.

    • The Knicks need shooting in order to open up lanes for young studs RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox to slash and make plays.

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  • Elfrid Payton

    • Courtesy of Tommy Beer: Back in March, Payton erupted for five straight triple-doubles, joining Michael Jordan Wilt Chamberlain, Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson, as just the fifth player in NBA history with five consecutive trip-dubs. Payton also averaged an impressive 11.3 points, 9.1 assists and 6.5 rebounds after All-Star break, and ranked fourth in the NBA in assists over the final two months of the season.

    • Also courtesy of Tommy Beer: Payton has been notoriously inefficient offensively (over the last five seasons, he is literally the only player in the league to log more than 10,000 minutes and post a True Shooting below 50%)

  • Taj Gibson

    • A pit-bull back in his Chicago days who always did the dirty work down low, but now an old timer in a league that thrives off of small ball. I honestly don’t love the signing, but the idea of veteran leadership for guys like Mitchell Robinson cannot be overlooked.

  • Bobby Portis

    • An unproven stretch 4. He will most likely come off the bench and be an "energy guy". Grab some boards, and sit in the corner for some open threes.

There is a common theme with all of these signings: Team Options. The Knicks were able to maintain their most valuable asset: cap flexibility. Instead of mortgaging their future on Joakim Noah and Tim Hardaway on 4-year deals. They are signing multiple deals with no risk and high reward by incorporating team options to opt out if need be.

When Will the Knicks sign a top tier Free Agent?

I hope this is a wake up call for all Knicks fans. No one wants to play for the Knicks, and they do not have a history of signing premier free agents. The top free agents the Knicks ever signed were Amar’e Stoudemire, Allan Houston and Anthony Mason. The Knicks are not the Lakers and they never were.

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The only thing Knicks fans can root for is to continue this process. When I say process, I am not referring to Sam Hinkie and the Sixers. Tanking is not the answer. The Knicks have no interest in intentionally losing anymore, because it clearly does not attract premier free agents. Also, the new lottery odds have proven to not favor teams that intentionally tank, as the Knicks finished dead last and ended up with the 3rd pick, missing on the Zion Sweepstakes.

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Instead they must focus on piling on assets, and building a well-coached young core. This will not happen overnight, but patience is the most important quality that the Knicks must adopt into their culture. If they bite on the next disgruntled star begging for a trade, or maxing out a second tier free agent, then history will continue to repeat itself.

This season is another year of development. I know that doesn’t sound fun for my fellow Knicks fans who want nothing more than to win now, but there is no shortcut. For the Knicks to succeed in the future, they have to pretend to be a normal team. That means they must refrain from any popcorn trades/deals.

The Knicks have to build from the ground up, and allow their new staff to develop their young players into legitimate NBA players who can contribute to a winning team. Only then will premier free agents want to join a team owned by this guy:

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