The New York Knicks entered free agency with more than $50 million in cap space. It took them less than three hours to spend the vast majority of it on four players. They will reportedly sign wing Evan Fournier, who finished last season with the Boston Celtics, and retain three of their own free agents: big man Nerlens Noel, point guard Derrick Rose and wing Alec Burks.
Fournier could make up to $78 million over four seasons in New York, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and there is a team option on the final year. Noel, Rose and Burks all got three-year deals worth $32 million, $43 million and $30 million, respectively, per ESPN.
Leading up to this offseason, the Knicks were linked to all sorts of names, from Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul and DeMar DeRozan to Lonzo Ball, Dennis Schroder and Kelly Oubre. For New York fans who expected the front office to take a major step toward title contention, the foursome that actually landed there will be underwhelming. Fournier fits on a team that needed more shooting and secondary playmaking but does not bring the same level of perimeter defender that the Knicks got from Reggie Bullock, who has left for the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year, $30.5 million deal, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
New York is not completely done. Maybe the front office can turn the Fournier signing into a sign-and-trade with the Celtics, who would presumably be willing to give the Knicks something of value in order to salvage a trade exception out of their briefer-than-anticipated Fournier experience. Maybe New York will waive the non-guaranteed contract of guard Luca Vildoza in order to open up a bit more cap space. There could be bargains to be found on minimum contracts, and the Knicks could potentially work out contract extensions with Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.
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Early indications, though, are that the 2021-22 Knicks roster will be similar to the one that shocked the world by going 41-31 last season before losing in five games against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. This is far from New York's dream scenario, in which it would have used its return to respectability as a springboard to something much bigger than that.
Obviously, if the Knicks could have used their cap space to land a franchise-changing superstar, they would have done that. Instead, they must hope that they can trade for that kind of player at some point, and that these guys will either compliment him or be a part of the deal. For the first time in a few years, New York has signed multiple free agents to multi-year contracts, sacrificing flexibility for continuity. That three of the four were acquired by Leon Rose's front office in the past year reflects well on the team it put together, but it's worth noting that Noel, Rose and Burks all arrived on much smaller salaries.
This is the hidden cost of overachieving. The Knicks clearly no longer see themselves as a rebuilding team. Rebuilding teams don't invest like this in non-stars in their late 20s and early 30s. If they sign them at all, they sign them to cheap, short-term deals that can easily be traded.
In more than one way, New York is doubling down on what worked last season. These are the actions of a team that believes it will get internal improvement from its young players and another Coach of the Year-caliber showing from Tom Thibodeau. These are the actions of a team that believes a superstar will be so impressed with what's happening at Madison Square Garden that he forces his way there. The Fournier contract in particular looks a bit rich, but if any of these deals look reasonable a year from now, it will be because the Knicks have collectively shown that they are a team on the rise. Pressure's on.