Knicks' Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 26, 2021

Knicks' Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions

0 of 3

    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    For as busy as the New York Knicks were during the 2021 NBA offseason, they didn't change their roster much from last season.

    They splurged on Evan Fournier and increased their prospect collection at the draft, but they didn't make major alterations before the late addition of Kemba Walker.

    Were they smart for re-investing in a team that just finished 10 games above .500 and booked the franchise's first playoff trip since 2013? Or did they over-commit to a club that doesn't have a championship ceiling now, nor an obvious path to create one?

    To help answer those questions, we'll give letter grades to the organization's three most impactful decisions this summer.

Extending Julius Randle

1 of 3

    Vincent Carchietta/Associated Press

    Julius Randle spent most of last season going to the moon. He ultimately crash-landed in the playoffs but not before giving the Knicks their first All-Star since 2018 by averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists.

    That was enough to convince New York he's the real deal, and they used that belief to back a four-year, $117.1 million contract extension. The final season is a player option, but the earliest he can reach free agency is 2025.

    If you're buying Randle's breakout, the deal has bargain potential. Get some more seasons out of him like the one he just had—when he and MVP Nikola Jokic were the only players to average 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists—and the Knicks will have a max-contract talent who doesn't cost max-contract money.

    Even if he regresses a bit, the contract still holds major value for the message it sends around the league: Perform well for in New York, and you'll be rewarded. For a franchise working to change its reputation among the NBA's elite, this is another big step in the right direction.

    Grade: A

Re-Signing Derrick Rose

2 of 3

    Elsa/Associated Press

    When searching for support scoring last season, the Knicks turned to a longtime favorite of coach Tom Thibodeau and plucked Derrick Rose away from the Detroit Pistons for the pennies-on-the-dollar price of Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick.

    The move paid immediate dividends, as Rose spent the rest of the season rampaging against opposing defenses. He averaged 14.9 points on 48.7 percent shooting (41.1 from range) across 35 regular-season contests, then upped the ante with with 19.4 on 47.6 (47.1) in five playoff games.

    Even if he's no longer the same caliber of difference-maker he was in the past, he still made a tangible difference on the team. Through that lens, it's understandable why the club committed to him this summer with a three-year, $43.6 million pact.

    But that feels a little rich for a player with a long injury history and a 33rd birthday coming up in October. The three-point shooting looks like an outlier (he shot 30.6 percent the season prior), and the aging curve could get harder to navigate without one. Even with a team option tacked on to the end of this deal, it may not play out as the Knicks are hoping.

    Grade: B-

Adding Kemba Walker

3 of 3

    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Considering all the money the Knicks spent this offseason, it feels funny circling a two-year, $17.9 million contract as their piece de resistance. But their moderate-cost, massive-reward investment in Kemba Walker tied everything together like a Lebowskian rug.

    "The Walker signing totally changes the way I feel about the Knicks' offseason," The Athletic's Danny Leroux wrote. "Before he joined, it looked like an expensive but slight tune-up, but Kemba gives them a totally different course of attack offensively, which is extremely exciting."

    The Knicks needed an offensive change after finishing 22nd in efficiency last season, and Walker could be just what the doctor ordered. He's a dynamic shot-creator for himself and his teammates, he adds value on or off the ball and he gives this offense new layers as a pick-and-roll maestro.

    He needs to stay upright for this to work, of course, so it's worth noting that he's a 31-year-old in a year-plus fight with a balky left knee. But the injury risks attached to the Bronx native are more than reflected in this reasonable price. The Knicks have the guard depth to cover the occasional absence, so as long as Walker avoids any catastrophic injuries, this could be a home run.

    Grade: A