By John Schmeelk
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Whether Mike Woodson is coaching the Knicks next Tuesday or not, the Knicks will explore trade opportunities ahead of the deadline. It’s doubtful that the Knicks will win anything significant this season, so this organization needs to look to the future. Without many valuable assets to trade, one that can still bring something valuable back in a trade is Tyson Chandler.
There’s no doubt it would hurt the Knicks to trade their only true center and rim protector, but the Knicks don’t have any other choice. He will be a free agent after the 2015 season and a likely cap casualty as the Knicks try to add another max player alongside Carmelo Anthony. Chandler’s play has also deteriorated since his Defensive Player of the Year award, and he only flashes some of the rim-protection abilities that he showed in his prime.
There’s a chance Chandler’s defensive energy has been infected by the same malaise affecting the rest of the roster, but it’s also possible that he is starting the inevitable decline of all big men in their 30s. His deteriorating play will certainly hurt his trade value, but Chandler still has a lot to offer teams that need a center who can finish around the basket, defend and run the floor. Other teams might believe his play could improve if he was put on a better team with a better coach. Chandler’s contract also isn’t onerous, with just one season remaining at $14.5 million. Besides Omer Asik, there isn’t another player on the trade market that offers what Chandler does, making him a somewhat unique commodity.
The Knicks should have one of two goals if they do end up trading Chandler: Get back into the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft or secure a potential point guard of the future. They desperately need to resupply themselves with picks and find a point guard to help Anthony on offense and defend opposing point guards, who have killed the Knicks.
The only teams that would be interested in Chandler would be those trying to make a run at the playoffs, or even the finals, so odds are it would be a first-round pick in the upper teens or lower 20s. The Knicks would also need to find a team with a large salary to match Chandler that does not go past the 2014-2015 season. It isn’t an easy match to find, but not impossible either.
The Suns are perhaps the most obvious match, with an expiring Emeka Okafor and the need for a veteran defensive leader at center. The Suns also have a plethora of first-round picks in 2014, including their own and protected picks from Washington, Minnesota and Indiana. They also have an extra incoming 2015 first-round pick from the Lakers, as long as it isn’t in the top five.
Granted, some of those picks might not get delivered this year (Indiana’s definitely will, Washington’s probably won’t and Minnesota’s is not as likely), but enough will to make one expendable. The Knicks might be able to get a second-round pick out of the deal as well. The two teams could also discuss Eric Bledsoe, who the Suns might not want to bring back next year since they have Goran Dragic locked up for a couple more years. It seems like a match if the Knicks are willing to move a player of Chandler’s ability for a couple of picks, a contract and nothing else. Unfortunately, the Knicks might be relegated to just that. Draft picks in today’s NBA are valued far higher than they have been in the past, and the next two drafts are supposed to be particularly deep.
The Mavericks could have been a fit, but they don’t have a first-round pick to offer the Knicks. The Clippers have DeAndre Jordan and no good salary matches for the Knicks. In the Eastern Conference, the Raptors and Bobcats have contracts that can work, but they already have big men in Al Jefferon and Jonas Valanciunas. The Wizards, meanwhile, have no first-round pick. The Cleveland Cavaliers might value a player like Chandler, but I doubt their new general manager will want to give up future assets for an older player.
Steve Mills needs to go to work. He has less than a week to find a good landing place for Chandler or anyone else on the roster that someone else might be willing to give up a future asset for. The Knicks need to look ahead.
They can put themselves in better position for future seasons by getting a point guard they think is a long-term answer or getting more picks in upcoming drafts. Improving this season is merely a secondary concern. Does Mills have that mentality? I don’t know, but he better for the sake of Knicks fans everywhere.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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