Should NY Knicks Trade Tyson Chandler's Expiring Contract This Offseason?

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Should NY Knicks Trade Tyson Chandler's Expiring Contract This Offseason?
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Is Tyson Chandler's time as a Knick coming to an end?

Both from an on-court standpoint and a financial one, the New York Knicks would be best served by holding onto Tyson Chandler this summer.

As a trade piece, he would be tantalizing for multiple reasons.

Even though his interior defense has been uncharacteristically spotty this season, he is still one of the most-feared rim protectors in the league on reputation alone. Revitalized with a change of scenery, Chandler could both serve as an anchor in the middle and could mentor fellow bigs on defensive and roll-man techniques.

Then there's the very lucrative kicker: In the upcoming offseason, an unseemly multi-year deal in the mid-eight digits becomes a $14.6 million expiring contract.

With that, Chandler becomes one of the most versatile trade targets there is. He's a missing piece for a contender spending for a title shot, a veteran presence for a locker room in need of leadership and a mechanism for which a team striving for frugality can clear some money off its books.

Just two years removed from a Defensive Player of the Year award and three from winning a ring as a Dallas Maverick, the 31-year-old center is all things to all suitors. It's not clear now which trade trait will be most alluring come the summer, but the Knicks won't struggle to find interest if they decide to shop him.

As a matter of due diligence, they're obligated to at least do that much; after all, New York could use some roster overhaul, and the team is entering the summer without any flexibility.

Let's assume the recently frisky but still maligned Amar'e Stoudemire would like his $23.4 million option; ditto for Andrea Bargnani and his $11.5 million. And let's assume Carmelo Anthony re-signs for some exorbitant salary somewhere around the value of his $23.3 million option.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Between those three guys and Chandler, the four highest-paid Knicks are slated to make about $72 million. Under the current CBA, that's not a sustainable model of success if you would like to sign any players qualified to start in a playoff series.

The Knicks will be limited to the mini-midlevel exception and minimum deals as they were last summer and seemingly every summer, turning the salary cap code into theater of the absurd yet again. Since Raymond Felton has clearly worn out his welcome, Phil Jackson will need to find at least one starter, depending on how sour his view is of the current roster.

Trading Chandler, along with a cap-clogging guy like Felton or J.R. Smith, could get the Knicks below the luxury tax line with full MLE privileges restored if they take basically no money back in return. New York would probably want a late or heavily-protected first rounder in return, but the cap space would be the real prize.

Such a deal would be primarily motivated by a desperate need for spending money, yet it's unclear what the productive move would be once New York had it.

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

With Chandler gone, the Knicks then would have to replace their defensive centerpiece as well as their starting point guard.

If New York gets to draft in the 20s this June—and that would unequivocally be a dream scenario—there won't be anyone available who could fill either of those roles. Difference-making centers simply do not fall that far, and the guards available would be small scorers like UConn's Shabazz Napier rather than someone who could facilitate ball movement.

In all likelihood, New York would land a pick in 2015 or later, meaning that the Knicks would have $5.305 million entering free agency, per Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ, to spend on their entire offseason wish list.

They could snare a fresh face at the point with that money—someone like Patty Mills off the San Antonio Spurs bench or maybe even Boston's Avery Bradley if he wants to be a starting point guard.

But let's put it this way: The full midlevel exception probably won't buy you Spencer Hawes, so the idea of signing someone to replicate even some of Chandler's production is out of the question.

All that means when the post-Tyson Knicks take the court for the 2014-15 season, their starting lineup could look something like this:

  • PG Patty Mills
  • SG Iman Shumpert (assuming Tim Hardaway Jr. stays the sixth man)
  • SF Carmelo Anthony
  • PF Amar'e Stoudemire
  • C Andrea Bargnani

Though a Mills-Shumpert tandem would be a handful defending the perimeter, that frontcourt is just begging opponents to drive the lane. Mills is a two-way improvement over Felton, and Bargs provides some interesting floor-spacing opportunities, but for every point this lineup produces, it would give up two on the other end.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Why move Chandler when it just exacerbates the roster flaw the team is already struggling to fix?

Contrary to the inefficient stigma associated with the Melo-led Knicks, New York has actually averaged 105.2 points per 100 possessions according to ESPN's Hollinger stats, putting them right on the cusp of the top 10. Meanwhile, the defense is giving up 107 points per 100 possessions, a bottom-five mark.

That's a big reason why John Schmeelk of CBS New York thought the Knicks should have dealt Chandler prior to the trade deadline; he fears Tyson might not have the body for defense much longer.

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.

He hasn't been able to save the Knicks' defensive unit from succumbing to dysfunction this season, but there haven't been signs that Chandler is diminished physically. He's still the best New York can get when it comes to standing strong in the middle. Sure, the Knicks need to make some changes, but the center position is just about the last place they can afford to scale back.

The only way they can hope to get something resembling a fair-value player in return for Tyson is if the new guy is a younger center on a multi-year deal. He would surely be a worse defender than Chandler, but youth and security would be the draws.

Unfortunately for any Chandler suitor, the Knicks would be best off keeping their books clean for the loaded free agent class of 2015, so taking on an inferior short-term option signed past this coming season would be counterproductive on both fronts.

In fact, the best way for New York to prepare for the 2015 offseason would be to let Tyson Chandler's expiring contract do what it's meant to: expire.

Even if his help defense doesn't return to 2011-12 levels, Chandler gives the Knicks their best chance to keep points off the board next season, and the organization's reward for paying his salary now will be to have even more cap space for a superior crop of available players.

As tempting as it may be to trade him, keeping Chandler in New York would be the most sensible call.

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