With the New York Knicks' announcement of Mike Woodson's removal as head coach, team president Phil Jackson made his presence felt almost immediately following the team's disappointing 37-45 finish. Woodson and his staff never had a true shot at returning under the new regime. Now what remains to be seen is how much of the roster will be following him through that door.
If Jackson had his way, most of it would, you'd presume. At least that's what could be gathered from the team's news release issued Monday morning. In the release, he said the following:
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff. The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.
That last sentence, referring to "change throughout the franchise," implies that much more turnover is yet to come.
The roadblock interfering with Jackson's construction plan is the lack of expiring deals or desirable trade assets to allow for the new leaf to turn over. Once Carmelo Anthony opts out, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani opt in for next year, New York will have three huge expiring contracts at their disposal.
But only Tyson Chandler's will garner serious interest around the league.
|Notable Knicks 2014-15 Expiring Contracts|
|*Difference in team +/- per 100 possessions while player is on court|
|**Assuming Stoudemire and Bargnani opt in|
How We Got Here
Chandler has struggled through injury for the bulk of the last two seasons, and understandable frustrations have led to apparent indifference while protecting the rim.
Plenty of those frustrations stemmed from the team's former coach's nonsensical idea of how New York should defend—and Chandler's teammates' repeated failures on that end.
After a blowout home loss to the Brooklyn Nets in January, Chandler openly bashed the team's scheme.
They out-schemed us. ... I don’t want to switch. I personally don’t like it. You come in with [a] defensive plan and everybody mans up and takes up his responsibility. Switching should be a last resort and, no, I don’t think we’re built to switch everything.
With the team's immediate future looking grim, he was asked before the team's final game about the possibility of weathering a rebuilding season in 2014-15. Chandler made sure not to send mixed signals: He's not interested.
According to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com:
'I definitely don’t want to waste any seasons. I didn’t want to waste this season. I’m not into wasting seasons,' veteran center Tyson Chandler said Tuesday.
Chandler was asked about the Knicks' plan to wait next season out and try to contend in 2015. 'I’ll cross that bridge when it gets to that point,' he said. 'I hope that it’s not that situation.'
Chandler's contract expires after the 2014-15 season. Secondly, the former NBA champ is 31 and in his 13th season in the league. 'Your time is too short in this league, and I want to win a championship, another one," Chandler said. 'I’m not into wasting seasons.'
This postseason marks the first Chandler will miss since 2007.
Chandler regressed this season after returning from a broken leg in December—he failed to average double-digit point totals for the first time since 2009-10, and he allowed 52-percent shooting at the rim—but he surely has maintained trade value around the league, even despite his $15 million price tag.
Chandler anchored the Dallas Mavericks' defense during their stunning 2011 title run and has been to the playoffs with each of his five NBA teams. His offensive game is limited, but he led the NBA in individual offensive rating three straight seasons, most recently last year during the Knicks' 54-win season.
Though his rebounding averages dipped from a year ago, his 27 percent defensive rebounding mark in 2013-14 was the second-highest of his career. His past ailments are a cause for concern, but Chandler didn't miss any time after his recovery from a November broken leg—an injury that shouldn't have any recurring effect.
Time to Move On?
Everything Chandler adds could fill a very important role on a different team—a team similar to what the Knicks thought they had when they signed the center to a max deal in 2011.
New York picked Chandler up when it presumed that Stoudemire and Anthony would take care of the team's offense by themselves. Chandler's offensive ineffectiveness would later become more visible when injuries essentially rendered Stoudemire a non-factor for much of the next three years, leaving virtually all of the scoring duties up to Anthony. Now thanks to the team's surrounding defensive woes, Chandler is anemic offensively and disinterested defensively.
As the Knicks move into this transition period, moving Chandler would seem to benefit both parties.
The team won't necessarily need to swap him out—letting his contract expire after the season would simply open up cap space—but finding the 7-footer a new home could net the team building blocks, while placing Chandler in a more favorable situation for his contract year.
As Jackson attempts to build a successful model in his image, the team is strapped with—maybe, depending on how you view Iman Shumpert's offense—a single two-way player.
While Chandler's offense is reliable for what it is, it's proven not to be enough for the Knicks. As a rare player on the roster who has maintained some trade value through the season, Jackson should and likely will explore all trade options when it comes to the big man—particularly ones that could bring back two-way assets, youth or draft picks.
In March, Bleacher Report's Dan Favale suggested that moving Chandler would be necessary under the right circumstances.
Whatever the cause, Chandler's not having his expected impact. Perhaps in the right system, under the right coach, he would thrive. Right now, he's not thriving.
But he is wanted.
Teams phoned New York about Chandler's availability ahead of the Feb. 20 trade deadline, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, which will absolutely happen again this summer. Relatively mobile bigs who (typically) specialize in rotations and general help defense are hard to find.
Chandler's expiring contract will also be of interest to any team looking to shed long-term salary. If the Knicks can find the right deal built around him, they have to strike—because their other plans are flawed.
That right deal will be important but difficult to find this summer. With Bargnani and Stoudemire coming off the books a year from now, New York plans on making a free-agency splash next summer—whether Anthony bolts or not.
Any deal Jackson's front office would look to make will certainly keep this in mind and will be reluctant to add major salary that eats into 2015 cap space. Barring an unforeseen scenario—like the Knicks become possible trade partners for an All-Star caliber player—the Knicks will only take back significant salaries for Chandler that are also expiring deals.
What Deals Fit the Criteria?
If the team does eventually implement Jackson's triangle offense, the team will probably look to acquire a more offensively aggressive force in the paint. A staple of the system is a skilled big man near the rim who can score proficiently and extend possessions with rebounding ability. Chandler has never been one to rely on his own offensive game and is coming off his worst offensive rebounding season in 11 years.
One center that could seemingly slide into the triangle is also playing on an expiring deal next season, matches up almost perfectly with Chandler in salary and is on a team equally desperate for change.
The Knicks could present the Cleveland Cavaliers with a trade offer for Anderson Varejao.
The two players are both set to be free agents after next season and are a month apart in age. A one-for-one trade would almost work mathematically. A minimum-salary filler would be required on Cleveland's end to make a deal work.
Varejao's trade value, like Chandler's, isn't sky-high this summer after posting the third-worst true shooting percentage of his career in 2013-14. In a down season, he still managed to shoot 52 percent in isolation and 47 percent in post-up situations, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Defensively, he ranked 15th while defending pick-and-roll screeners, 18th in isolation and 25th against spot-up shooters but struggled in the post, allowing 0.98 points per play down low.
His jump shot would help keep defenses honest and give Anthony room to work, should he return. The range on Varejao's J extends near the three-point line; he shot about 49 percent in between 10 feet away and the arc. Acquiring him before July 1 would prove to Anthony that the team is dedicated in helping reduce his scoring load in the future.
The Knicks could also use Chandler to help solidify the point guard situation for the future.
Sending Chandler back to the Dallas Mavericks could possibly net a return of Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright, who posted a ridiculous 23.5 PER and 69.5 true shooting percentage last season. Dallas has two 2014 second-round picks it can include if the deal gets done near draft night. Both Dalembert's and Wright's deals expire in time for 2015.
But the primary return Jackson should aim for would be Shane Larkin, last year's 18th overall pick. Larkin struggled in limited time for Dallas this season but shot 47 percent—including 8-of-14 from three—during a D-League stint and averaged five assists with a 60 percent true shooting percentage in 2012-13 at Miami.
If Larkin doesn't pan out, the Knicks could decline his team options and the effect would be the same as wiping away Chandler's cap space.
Another possible swap geared toward the future could involve talking to Oklahoma City about a deal that would place Chandler on a championship-contending roster.
The downside is that New York would have to take back Kendrick Perkins' expiring deal. In return for the steep downgrade at center, Jackson's front office could ask for a combination of 2015 or 2016 draft selections, or some of the young talent OKC has accumulated—think Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb or Perry Jones.
It's important to keep in mind that any swap that tips the scales too heavily toward the future diminishes the possibility of Anthony wanting to re-up but may better suit the franchise in the long term. Jackson will need to weigh out the pros and cons on each end of the spectrum.
Trading away Chandler won't be a necessity this summer, but with New York's changing of the guard already underway, it appears that the roster is due for a makeover in the coming months.
As the team's most attractive and movable piece, don't be shocked if Chandler is manning the middle elsewhere next fall.
Stats gathered from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and NBA.com.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
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