The New York Knicks are not in the most flexible salary cap position heading into the 2013 offseason, and they may have to get creative if they want to make significant changes to their roster.
As a luxury tax-paying team close to the tax apron, the Knicks won't be allowed to make sign-and-trades this offseason, and will have their mid-level exception reduced to just $3 million.
After that—and re-signing their own free agents—they'll have to fill out the rest of the roster with veteran's minimum contracts and their selection with the 24th overall pick in the Draft.
Though New York may still be able to add a couple of helpful pieces, if they want to make any major changes, they're going to have to explore trading away a key player. And, if that's the case, Tyson Chandler may be their biggest trade chip.
The only player New York would want to trade is Amar'e Stoudemire, but it's quite clear that there will be no interest in him for the very reasons they would want to trade him. He's simply too injury-prone and too overpaid for a team to want him back in a trade.
Elsewhere, the Knicks could look to trade Iman Shumpert, especially considering how reasonable his contract is. With that said, New York would regret trading away such a talented, young player unless they got someone just as good in return.
Outside of Chandler, there aren't really any more players that would spark much interest on the trade market, or bring back a particularly helpful package in return.
Chandler, however, could interest a number of teams, especially those who are lacking on the defensive end of the floor. At $14 million, his contract isn't too enticing, but a team desperate for defense could be willing to take on that level of salary.
Still, while Chandler may be their biggest trade chip, that doesn't necessarily mean New York should be looking to trade him. It will be almost impossible to find a replacement defensive anchor, as well as someone who can work so efficiently in the pick-and-roll.
Continuity is important when trying to win a title, and it would not be wise to get rid of one of the team's most important players after just one full season of this roster being together. Chandler is a leader in the locker room and is just too important to let go of at this point.
Instead, New York should simply look to add talent in the draft and with the taxpayers' exception, whiles also looking at some low-risk, high-reward options with the minimum salary. It's conceivable that they could make three very important signings if they do things right.
If they still feel changes are needed following that, a smaller trade would be smart. A team that lacks shooting may be interested in Steve Novak's $4 million contract and could trade some helpful frontcourt depth in return for him.
It's not the type of trade that will completely transform the team, but it's the type of incremental improvement that's needed at this point.
After a 54-win season, New York is not in a position where it needs to make major changes, and instead should be looking to cover the weaknesses that are exposed in the playoffs. They need some more energy off the bench, and a few more bigs, both of which can be had without trading away a key player.