New York Knicks free agency: 6 best signings in team history

The New York Knicks haven’t always made the best decisions in free agency.

However, over the years, the Knicks have occasionally come away with impactful players in free agency — signings that helped boost their team or changed the direction of their team altogether.

With the Knicks in the midst of free agency right now, we ranked the team’s six best free agent signings.

6. Tyson Chandler, C, 2011

Contract: 4 years, $58 million

Chandler came over the Knicks after helping the Mavs win a championship in 2011. 

Chandler was the premier version of an NBA archetype: a rim-running, rim-defending big man who didn’t need the ball and did all the dirty work. Chandler won Defensive Player of the Year in 2011-12, a deserved win for his ability to shut off the paint on a team with several iffy defenders, and made All-NBA Third Team. The following year he made the All-Star game.

Chandler was traded by the Knicks back to the Mavericks in 2014, making his Knicks tenure just three seasons. But he was impactful in all three — a true team player who played a key role in the team’s winningest season since 1997.

5. Anthony Mason, F, 1991

Contract: 5 years, $20 million

Mason’s numbers undersell his impact with the Knicks. A bruising forward who could guard players bigger than him, Mason was also a deft ball-handler and passer, an early point forward prototype. He was a fan-favorite with the Madison Square Garden crowd and a key part of the ’90s Knicks identity. Mason took home Sixth Man of the Year in 1994-95, averaging 9.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game off the bench.

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Mason was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 in a deal that brought the team Larry Johnson.

4. Julius Randle, F, 2019

Contract: 3 years, $62 million

Randle was the Knicks’ consolation prize in 2019 after missing out on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. How did that work out!?

Rande has exceeded expectations with the Knicks, becoming a three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection over five years and taking home Most Improved Player in 2020-21. The bruising 6-foot-9 forward can get his shot from all over the court, has great court vision, and has reminded fans of the physical play of the beloved ’90s Knicks.

The only knock on Randle is that he has yet to put together a strong postseason performance. That could change this coming season.

3. Allan Houston, G, 1996

Contract: 7 years, $56 million

With one of the purest jumpers in NBA history, the smooth-scoring Houston is a player who might’ve come to the NBA just a few decades too soon.

Nonetheless, Houston delivered for the Knicks, as the rare volume-scoring guard who changes teams in his prime. Over nine seasons with the Knicks, Houston became an All-Star twice and became the franchise’s fourth-leading scorer and second all-time in threes. He also owns one of the iconic shots in Knicks history — a game-winning runner in the lane to eliminate the No. 1-seeded Miami Heat in the 1999 playoffs.

Houston eventually got the Knicks’ first-ever $100 million contract, but that one didn’t end so well, as knee injuries caused Houston to retire in 2007.

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2. John Starks, G, 1990

Contract: 1 year (terms not clear)

Starks’ tenure with the Knicks is one of the most fortuitous. After spending one year with the Warriors, then playing internationally, Starks tried out for the Knicks. It’s said that he tried to dunk on Patrick Ewing in a practice, got injured, and because of league rules at the time, could not be cut. Starks made the team and ended up becoming a contributor when he got healthy.

Starks spent eight seasons with the Knicks and was a crucial sparkplug who brought shot-creation, shooting, and toughness. He made the All-Star Game in ’93-94, an All-Defensive Team the year before, and won Sixth Man of the Year in 1996-97. Starks also owns some iconic Knicks moments, none more famous than “The Dunk” over the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 playoffs. It’s a pretty great resumé for a player who was the equivalent of a walk-on.

1. Jalen Brunson, G, 2022

Contract: 4 years, $104 million

Brunson is not just the best free agent signing in team history; he’s one of the best free agent signings of all-time.

Rarely does one player ever transform a team, let alone a reserve guard who hadn’t made an All-Star team and wasn’t viewed as a sure-fire starter in the NBA. With the Knicks, Brunson has become an elite scoring guard, a knifing, twisting ball-handler who can seemingly beat anyone off the dribble and score from any angle. Beyond his ability to put the ball in the basket, his hard work, leadership, and calm but tough demeanor has seemingly washed over the Knicks.

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If Brunson keeps it up and the Knicks remain at least a playoff team (if not a championship contender), Brunson’s number is surely heading for the MSG rafters.

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