Knicks' Biggest Winners and Losers from 2021 NBA Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 19, 2021

Knicks' Biggest Winners and Losers from 2021 NBA Free Agency

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The New York Knicks entered the 2021 NBA offseason with plenty of money to spend, and spend it they did.

    They rained cash on just about every incumbent free agent and found more of it to lure in the likes of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker.

    Some might mock the generosity, since all of these contracts almost certainly don't add up to a championship contender. But the Knicks can win a good amount of games with the roster they assembled, and that will keep them in the news for the right reasons. That could prove immensely valuable if a disgruntled superstar gets antsy elsewhere and wants an excuse for bouncing to the Big Apple.

    That's a topic for a different day, though. For now, let's focus on the top two winners and one clear loser of free agency in New York.

Winner: Julius Randle

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Without having a clue of how you spent your summer, I can still say with copious amounts of confidence Julius Randle's was better.

    For starters, his shaky playoff showing did nothing to take away the toast-of-the-town status he'd earned by giving the Knicks their first All-Star since 2018 and first playoff berth since 2013. The 'Bockers were buzzing, and he was a major reason why.

    His playoff woes might have had a lot to do with a lack of scoring punch around him, and New York made several big swings to ensure that won't be the case next season.

    The Knicks gave Derrick Rose a $43 million deal to stay and Evan Fournier a $78 million deal to come. When Kemba Walker landed later on a two-year, $18 million contract, Randle's support scoring options were suddenly looking pretty rock solid.

    Then, the offseason got even better, as the Knicks rewarded him with a four-year, $117 million extension. Have a summer, Julius.

Loser: Frank Ntilikina

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Most of the Knicks' own free agents circled back to the team on new deals.

    Two who didn't would have a hard time complaining about their outcomes in free agency. Reggie Bullock got a three-year, $30.5 million deal to play alongside Luka Doncic on the Dallas Mavericks. Elfrid Payton only found a one-year deal, but he signed it with the defending Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns.

    And then there's Frank Ntilikina, who hasn't made a peep on the free-agent front since word surfaced that the franchise opted against giving him a qualifying offer.

    That means he's been sitting in unrestricted free agency and still hasn't convinced a suitor he's worth a shot. That's a tough tumble for the No. 8 pick of the 2017 draft, though there isn't much evidence he can be more than a defensive pest at this level.

Winner: Kemba Walker

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    Sarah Stier/Associated Press

    What a whirlwind couple of months for Kemba Walker.

    In June, the 31-year-old was blindsided by a trade away from the Boston Celtics, a fringe contender in the East, to the Oklahoma City Thunder, an unabashed tanker with both eyes on the future. His stay in the Sooner State figured to last long enough for him to reestablish enough value for the Thunder to trade him for some draft considerations.

    Then, word came that he had ironed out a buyout agreement with the Thunder, leaving $20 million on the table for a fresh start. Almost immediately, he found nearly as much money on a two-year deal with New York, bringing the Bronx native back home and putting him right back in the Eastern Conference chase.

    "It's the most unreal feeling," Walker told reporters. "I can't really explain it. I can't really put it into words how amazing this feeling is being back home."

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