The New York Knicks face a crucial offseason as the franchise attempts to reboot following a disappointing 2013-14 campaign. Without a pick in the upcoming draft or any salary cap space to work with (even if Carmelo Anthony does not re-sign with the team), team president Phil Jackson will look to the trade market to try and upgrade the roster for the short and long term.
The Knicks' situation is complicated by their unwillingness to take on salary beyond the 2014-15 season. New York has over $50 million coming off the books in the summer of 2015, just in time for a free-agent class which is expected to include Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Marc Gasol.
Potential Sign-and-Trade Partners for Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is the focal point of the Knicks offseason. The team would like to retain the seven-time All-Star, though Jackson appears reluctant to do so at any cost and indicated that it would not be a "disaster" if Anthony does not return, via Peter Botte of New York Daily News.
Jackson went on to say that he hopes Anthony is "true to his word" about being willing to accept less money to stay in New York, via Botte. Unfortunately, money is the one major advantage the Knicks have in their quest to keep Carmelo in blue and orange.
The Knicks can offer the star forward $129.1 million over five years, which is $33 million more than any other team. If that discrepancy is diminished, Anthony would be more inclined to sign with a team that has the personnel to compete for a championship immediately. The Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets are two such teams.
Both the Rockets and Bulls are expected to pursue Anthony, though neither will have the cap space to sign him as a free agent without shedding a significant amount salary. Chicago would need to unload Carlos Boozer, who is scheduled to make $16.8 million in the final year of his deal, by trade or through the amnesty provision. Team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is reportedly reluctant to amnesty Boozer and would prefer the trade route, via Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
If it becomes apparent that Carmelo is intent on signing elsewhere, the Knicks should be willing to play ball. Taking back Boozer's contract would not interfere with their plans for 2015. Chicago would have to include additional assets, such as swing man Jimmy Butler, the rights to highly touted Montenegrin forward Nikola Mirotic, the 16th and/or 19th picks in the 2014 draft or future draft picks.
The Rockets would have to deal both Omer Asik and former Knick Jeremy Lin in order to clear enough cap space to sign Anthony as a free agent, an unlikely endeavor, considering both players are owed $14.9 million in 2014-15, the final year of their contracts. A more realistic option may be to trade Asik or Lin to the Knicks, along with promising young forward Terrence Jones and draft picks as part of a sign-and-trade for Anthony.
Tyson Chandler Could Be a Nice Fit for Dallas or Oklahoma City
Regardless of whether Anthony remains with the team, 2014-15 is expected to be a throw-away season for the Knicks, as Jackson and company prepare for the summer of 2015. One player who might not be on board for that plan is Tyson Chandler.
"I definitely don’t want to waste any seasons. I didn’t want to waste this season. I’m not into wasting seasons," Chandler told reporters prior to the Knicks season finale, via Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
Chandler turns 32 in October and has begun to show the wear-and-tear of 13 NBA seasons. The 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year often looked a step slow on his defensive rotations this season and opponents shot 52 percent at the rim against him, via NBA.com.
The aging center is unlikely to be in the team's long-term plans unless he accepts a major pay cut, and is also the most desired of the team’s three big men on expired deals (Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani being the other two). Jackson could shop him in exchange for young talent or draft picks.
Numerous teams inquired about Chandler's availability prior to the February trade deadline, via Marc Stein @ESPN.com, and despite his drop-off, the Knicks starting center would garner plenty of interest around the league this summer. He is still a very good defensive center with a championship pedigree who can finish around the rim, and he comes with a cap-friendly, expiring contract.
Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban has been second-guessed for allowing Chandler to walk following the team's championship in 2011, and there have been rumblings that the Mavs are interested in reacquiring the center, via Stein. Dallas could offer the Knicks the expiring contracts of big men Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright, as well as their first-round pick in 2013, Shane Larkin.
Larkin would be a great addition for a Knicks team that desperately needs help at point guard. The diminutive point guard was stuck on the bench behind Jose Calderon and Devin Harris during his rookie season. When given the opportunity, he breaks down defenses with his blinding speed and could be groomed to be the point guard of the future in New York.
Oklahoma City is another team that could benefit from Chandler's services. The Knicks center would represent a significant upgrade over the plodding Kendrick Perkins on both ends of the floor. Perkins is scheduled to earn $9.4 million in the final year of his contract. OKC could package him with rangy youngster Jeremy Lamb and/or a pick in this year's or future drafts.
New York will explore other trade options, including unloading the contracts of J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Stoudemire and Bargnani, though any major trades the team makes will likely center around Chandler and Anthony. Chances are that if one is not back with the team next season, they will both be gone.