In a trade that's questionable from financial and basketball angles, the Toronto Raptors sent Italian forward Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks in exchange for three players and three draft picks.
The Knickerbockers gave the Raptors Marcus Camby, Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson, along with a first-round pick in 2016 and second-round picks in 2014 and 2017. Both clubs agreed to the deal on June 30, but the swap became official July 10:
With another star in the mix and another gigantic salary on the payroll, New York might find itself looking for ways to ease the monetary strain.
The former No. 1 overall pick brings a 7'0" frame and a smooth shooting stroke, two things almost any team would like to have. He's a career 36 percent shooter from beyond the arc and averages 15.2 points per game.
Unfortunately, Bargnani won't be bringing versatility, efficiency, rebounding or top-tier defense. His numbers took a dip in 2012-13 (12.7 PPG, 11.2 PER), and he doesn't come cheap: his 2013-14 salary is $11.3 million, and his 2014-15 salary is $12.1 million.
When you plug his numbers into the Knicks' already-bloated payroll, the club will spend more than $83 million this season and could potentially clear $90 million for the following campaign. That puts New York waist-deep in a swamp of luxury tax.
Something has got to budge.
If Glen Grunwald and the Knicks brass want to loosen the logjam in the frontcourt and alleviate the financial burden a bit, they have to take a gander at trade options.
Carmelo Anthony is the face of the franchise and its most productive and dangerous offensive weapon. Scoring stars like him are incredibly rare, so dealing him is pretty much out of the question.
Meanwhile, Amar'e Stoudemire is a player New York would love to lose if the opportunity presented itself. But the oft-injured power forward is owed in excess of $45 million over the next two seasons. It's simply unworkable for other franchises.
The rest of the roster consists of new signees or prized young talent—except for Tyson Chandler, who is essentially the team's most valuable trade chip.
According to ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling, the Knicks front office is open to the idea of trading Chandler if an attractive offer arises:
League source: "#Knicks haven't offered Tyson Chandler in any trade, but they wouldn't turn down a good offer." NYK = known to surprise ...— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) July 1, 2013
Chandler is due to collect approximately $28 million over the next couple seasons, and he's coming off an All-Star campaign. His contract is expensive, but not outlandish, and his health and on-court value are still at a high level. The franchise would be much healthier economically in 2014-15 if it pulled off a swap with expiring contracts.
But do the Knicks really want to let him go, even if it helps their pocketbook in 2014 and beyond?
He represents the elite defensive presence on the club, the one truly formidable stopper. The 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year serves as an enforcer in the paint and a competent and efficient rim protector.
Equally important is his presence on the offensive end, where his rebounding and above-the-rim finishing are literally head and shoulders above his teammates.
Even though he's unskilled as a scorer, Chandler is immensely beneficial to New York's attack, especially in pick-and-roll scenarios.
According to 82games.com, the Knicks scored 114 points per 100 possessions when Chandler was on the floor in 2012-13 and 110 per 100 possessions when he was on the bench. That four-point differential proves how influential he can be without having an effective jumper or pivot moves.
The point is, players like Chandler are worth hanging onto in most cases.
New York seems intent on spreading the floor and phasing in smaller lineups for some stretches. It will use Bargnani to space things out and create mismatches and hope things work out on the other end of the floor.
This new approach (and more specifically, the acquisition of Bargnani) comes with risks and a heavy financial consequence. If the Knicks feel like they need to shuffle things to complete the change, Chandler is their best trade bait.
But saying goodbye to Chandler would rob the team of its defensive backbone and also strip it of a key offensive piece.
Grunwald and Co. are in a tricky spot and should proceed cautiously. Stay tuned.
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