Tyson Chandler, Not Carmelo Anthony, Is NY Knicks' Best Trade Chip

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Tyson Chandler, Not Carmelo Anthony, Is NY Knicks' Best Trade Chip
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony isn't going anywhere, so Tyson Chandler may have to.

There is reportedly "no chance" the New York Knicks move Anthony before the Feb. 20 trade deadline, according to Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, suggesting the team is intent on salvaging what's left of this season.

Fusing hope into a largely hopeless campaign won't happen if the Knicks aren't prepared to make changes. What's happening now isn't working. Adjustments and alterations must be made.

Worthwhile changes are only possible, though, if the Knicks have something, someone other teams want. And if they aren't open to dealing Anthony, they have no one to anchor a trade package worth anything substantial.

Well, almost no one.

 

Not-So-Melodramatic Trade Offers

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to trade Anthony isn't as simple as it seems.

Moving Anthony is something the Knicks absolutely must explore, but it's unrealistic to expect them to actually deal him, and not just because owner James Dolan is averse to admitting when he's wrong or that he has no idea how to run an NBA organization.

Of all the things we know about Anthony, three are for certain: 

  1. He likes to score.
  2. His headband isn't purely decorative; it's used to show how often he's whacked across the head.
  3. Free agency is something he's looking forward to.

That last one is especially important. With Anthony preparing to hit the open market this summer, he must be looked at as an expiring contract. There's no guarantee he re-signs with the team he's traded to, unless he actually guarantees it beforehand.

Which he won't.

"I want to be a free agent," Anthony told the New York Observer's Rafi Kohan in October. "I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career."

Want of that freedom impacts his trade value. Teams won't offer packages meeting all of New York's needs—cap relief, draft picks and promising prospects—if Anthony is a flight risk. Futures aren't mortgaged for potential rentals.

Asset cupboards also aren't pillaged for players who can be signed outright. Those with cap space won't be lining up to pry Anthony out of New York at expense of their current rosters when he could become available this summer.

Mock the Knicks maintaining there's "no chance" they trade Anthony if you must, but aside from Dolan's oft-misplaced sense of loyalty, there's value in holding onto him. While he could leave, the Knicks must ask themselves whether they prefer an unimpressive return on his departure or the chance to retain their top-10 superstar.

Put in that context, it makes more sense for the Knicks to keep Anthony rather than deal him in a trade that barely improves existing conditions.

 

Chandler's Outside Value

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Tradeable assets aren't luxuries the Knicks have.

Refusal to shop Anthony has left the Knicks to dangle third-year guard Iman Shumpert in just about every proposal imaginable, most recently one involving the Denver Nuggets' Kenneth Faried:

Like most of New York's roster, Shumpert's trade value is dwindling. He's averaging seven points on 38.1 percent shooting, proving liable to disappear for quarters, games and weeks at a time. Much of his explosion is gone following last year's ACL recovery as well.

Tim Hardaway Jr. could easily draw interest as a more athletic, self-sufficient, shorter and versatile version of a three-point specialist. He's essentially replaced Steve Novak's long-range touch without the absence of other offensive tools.

But Hardaway, like Shumpert, is on a rookie-scale contract. Modest salaries prevent rookie deals from being flipped for established impact players. They're best used as complementary buffers, mated with proven and more expensive pacts.

That's something the Knicks aren't short on—expensive contracts. 

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

From Amar'e Stoudemire to Andrea Bargnani to J.R. Smith, they have salaries that can be used to acquire legitimate quality players. Problem is, their current money isn't vested in quality players.

Offering STAT, Bargs or Smith in any deal that isn't accompanied with the headline "Knicks Targeting Gerald Wallace," or another bad contract of similar ilk, is laughable. Any trade involving either of those three will consist of the Knicks taking back equal-to-worse deals.

That brings us to Chandler, the former Defensive Player of the Year who, while owed $14.6 million next season, still holds value outside the Knicks organization.

Chandler-related inquiries were being sent New York's way as recent as January, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, all of which were rebuffed. Why should the Knicks trade their second-most valuable player?

Because they need to make a significant change.

In addition to Faried talks, the New York Daily News' Frank Isola says the Knicks are also attempting to revive Kyle Lowry negotiations with the Toronto Raptors:

Looking beyond the fact that Faried—another rebounding-inclined, defensively inept floor-spacing nightmare—and Lowry—an All-Star quality point guard headed for a payday the Knicks won't want to finance—won't solve New York's current issues based on cost alone, increasing rumors are a harbinger of the team's impatience, of its desperation.

The Knicks need to make a change. A big one. It goes beyond Anthony's potential to bolt this summer. They have the league's second-highest payroll, yet they rank 23rd in defensive efficiency and have just one player averaging more than 14 points per game, and it's left them fighting a losing battle for a playoff spot in the downright horrible Eastern Conference.

Standing pat is an option, but it isn't a good gone. And if the Knicks wish to make a change worth touting, if they wish to make a change worth making, all avenues lead back to Chandler, a player other teams are actually pursuing. 

 

Chandler's Regression

Glenn James/Getty Images

Why should the Knicks trade their second-most valuable player?

That's the question we just answered, but perhaps it's not the one worth asking at this point. 

Is Chandler actually the Knicks' second-most valuable player?

Now that's more like it.

With all due respect to Chandler, his internal value isn't what it once was. The linchpin from 2011-12 has retreated into an injury-prone big man with a jagged offensive game sans the profound defensive impact.

For the last two season's New York's defensive rating has been worse with Chandler on the floor, according to NBA.com (subscription required). While that's not on Chandler alone, it doesn't reflect well on him either.

Infogr.am.

Flawed defensive rotations and a broken system in general aren't helping. Chandler, however, was brought in to have that profound impact, and he's simply not having it. His minutes, points and rebounds per game are also all down. Does that make him, dare we say it, expendable?

There's no one on New York's roster that's going to replace Chandler. Understand that. But the Knicks aren't lacking size. Most of it is uncertain (Martin and Tyler) and defensively incapable (Bargs and STAT) size, but there's still size. 

Consider that the Knicks' defensive rating is also better when Martin and Tyler are on the floor compared to Chandler:

Infogr.am.

Once again, the quality of opponents and defensive system comes into play, but it's not something worth ignoring. If it was, then Chandler would be expendable anyway, because the triviality of defense doesn't suit him.

 

Not Ideal, But Potentially Necessary

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Trading Chandler isn't ideal. Far from it. But nothing about the Knicks' situation is ideal.

Regression within New York's system aside, Chandler is the lone player who can help the Knicks get what they need. Whether it entails attaching him to a less favorable contract, securing a draft pick or immediate impact player, he is the most valuable trade asset they have.

Should the Knicks consider trading Tyson Chandler?

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Parting ways would suggest the Knicks have resigned to not playing defense, but they're not defending well now, hence the need for reformation.

Change is inevitable at this point with the Knicks in need of a point guard and supporting cast that suits Anthony. And if the Knicks are going to make adjustments, they need to go big. Baby steps won't help them climb out of the hole they're in. They're too far gone.

Moves aren't worth making in this situation if they don't yield something of significant value in return, and the Knicks won't be making any changes worthwhile if they steer clear of dangling the one player who actually has a chance at helping them get what they need.

 

*Salary information via ShamSports.


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