5 Trade Scenarios New York Knicks Would Be Smart to Consider
The New York Knicks aren't in a position to nitpick when it comes to improving the roster. Capped out, with no draft picks available to trade until 2018 and few viable assets on the roster, the Knicks and Phil Jackson don't have an easy road to becoming a contender.
With only the $3 million mini mid-level exception and minimum salaries at its disposal this summer to sign free agents, New York should be active in trade talks this summer—particularly if it's looking to enter this year's star-studded draft. That clock is ticking, though, with only six days until draft day on June 26.
There have been a few unrealistic rumors floating about, namely the Knicks sending Tyson Chandler to Golden State for David Lee and Harrison Barnes, per Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group. Faux blockbusters like that aren't likely for New York, but there are a number of lower-profile deals that could help re-establish the team as a playoff contender.
And the team has to deal with Carmelo Anthony's impending free agency.
New York's makeup next season is still largely unknown, but here are a few transactions that Jackson should consider.
Sending Tyson Chandler Back to Dallas
Trade Tyson Chandler to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Brandan Wright and Samuel Dalembert
Tyson Chandler's rumored departure from New York has been in the cards for some time now. The Knicks are a far different team now than the one that desperately needed his services in 2011-12. That squad thought it had two All-Star scorers in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony and needed Chandler solely to boost the defense and save Stoudemire from running minutes at the 5.
As it played out, Chandler was forced to become a bigger piece to the puzzle than anyone predicted. With Stoudemire injured for most of the center's first two New York campaigns, Chandler's offensive limits became more noticeable as time wore on.
The team's lack of defensive talent has taken a toll on him as well, leaving essentially all the defending for him to do at the rim. When one player knows he has to keep an eye on all five opponents, rarely will he be as effective as his team hopes.
The Knicks' new predicament may call for a short-term rebuild next season—Chandler's contract year—which the 31-year-old has publicly said he isn't on board with. According to ESPN New York's Ian Begley, Chandler explained why near the end of last season:
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.
It's an understandable sentiment from a player who signed a max deal with the Knicks when they were presumed to be an up-and-coming contender in the East.
To help aid Chandler's requests, as well as expedite their own return to grace, the Knicks could look to swap Chandler—one of the team's rare trade assets—for a center that may fit better into the triangle scheme that new coach Derek Fisher is likely to run. Not hindering the chance to spend during the 2015 offseason would be desirable as well.
The team has several holes entering next season, but the most glaring weakness is at the point guard position.
Especially if Carmelo Anthony decides to move on from New York, every move Jackson signs off on should be made with the future in mind. Considering this, re-routing Chandler back to the Dallas Mavericks for a youthful trade package—headlined by Shane Larkin—would be intriguing.
Shipping Chandler out for a return of Larkin, Brandan Wright and Samuel Dalembert could help expedite the team's re-tooling project next season. Only Larkin remains under contract through next year and on a rookie scale.
Wright posted an insane 23.5 payer efficiency rating and 69.5 true shooting percentage last season for Dallas in more than 18 minutes per game, mostly out of the center position.
The main chip of the deal, though, would be Larkin, last draft's 18th overall pick. He struggled in limited time for Dallas this past season but shot 47 percent—including 8-of-14 from three—during a D-League stay, and he averaged five assists with a 60 percent true shooting percentage in the 2012-13 NCAA season with Miami.
If Larkin doesn't perform up to par, New York could simply decline his team options, and the effect would be the same as accepting Chandler's cap space.
Swapping Centers with the Cavs
Trade Tyson Chandler to Cleveland for Anderson Varejao
We've discussed why a Tyson Chandler deal could benefit several parties, and for the same reasons, a swap with the Cleveland Cavaliers for Anderson Varejao would be interesting for both teams.
The Cavs are a rare franchise in a state of perpetual limbo but somehow a destination that should compete into the spring months. With Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and this draft's first overall pick, Cleveland could turn things around next season.
At the same time, the team is desperate for change. Shipping its longest-tenured player out for Chandler and his championship expertise could help improve the culture around Cleveland.
Varejao's trade value, like Chandler's, isn't at its apex after posting his third-lowest true shooting percentage in 2013-14. In an off year, he still managed to shoot 52 percent in isolation and 47 percent in post-up situations, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Defensively, he's certainly not in Chandler's echelon, but he ranked 15th in the league while defending pick-and-roll screeners, 18th in isolation and 25th against spot-up shooters.
More importantly, though, he seems to fit right into the center spot in Jackson and Derek Fisher's triangle. Bigs in the system need to be relied on not just for scoring, but decision-making and athleticism as well. Varejao seems to fit the criteria. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau commented on the center's style in 2012, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Varejao is playing off the charts. Those rebounding numbers are staggering. He's scoring, too, it's not just the rebounding. Scoring, playmaking, toughness, he's just doing so many different things. He's very active. He's going to make you pay for mistakes. He's relentless. He never stops going.
With a contract identical in length to Chandler's and a few million dollars cheaper, this deal is almost feasible as a straight-up swap. A salary filler would be needed on Cleveland's end to get it done, but the move could benefit both teams next season.
Trading Iman Shumpert out for a 2014 First-Rounder
Trade Iman Shumpert to Oklahoma City for a 2014 First-Round Pick
Iman Shumpert is one of three Knicks players who could be attractive to other teams via trade. Though his ceiling is up for debate, Shumpert, still only 23, has the raw skills to evolve into a difference-maker on a winning team.
He improved his range to eclipse 40 percent shooting from distance in his sophomore season, and though he regressed this past season, he still drilled nearly 40 percent of his corner threes. According to NBA.com, he ran the third-highest total distance on the Knicks in 2013-14 (138.9 miles) over just 27 minutes per game. His motor is a tremendous asset, and his on-ball defense has been compared to the Tony Allens of the league already.
Still, as he enters the fourth year of his career, there's question concerning whether he will package his raw skills into becoming a bona fide talent. He hasn't had the benefit of a coach who is willing to develop him yet, playing under Mike Woodson for all but 35 of his 191 career NBA games, playoffs included. But in the right deal, Shumpert may be able to bring back something of value to a franchise that is desperate for it.
That deal almost came last February, when the Knicks were on the brink of shipping Shump to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 21st overall pick in this year's draft, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe. That deal never came to fruition—New York's front office was uncharacteristically conservative, knowing Phil Jackson was on his way, but unsure of when.
Zach Lowe on BS Report “Thunder 100% offered a first round pick for Shumpert and thought they had a deal, Knicks backed out” @simmonsclass— Azaz (@AzazNYK) June 20, 2014
The swap has resurfaced this summer, so it seems, with Marc Berman of the New York Post reporting the two teams have been in contact once again. And for New York, obtaining the 21st overall selection in this deep draft may be more valuable than what Shumpert can provide.
Jackson has been high on Shumpert since his hiring, but a few things are working against the young player. First, and most importantly, nobody knows how Shump's raw talent will translate over time. Good coaching and development by Fisher's staff would surely help, but it's still a question mark.
Also, Shumpert is set to be a restricted free agent after 2013-14. If the Knicks holds onto him through next year, they risk losing him to a bloated offer sheet or having his salary impede their spending in 2015 or 2016.
A first-rounder in this year's draft, however, would be under control on a rookie-scale contract, presumably for the next four seasons. With the Knicks looking to construct an expensive, star-studded, free-agent crammed roster next summer or the one that follows, they'll need as much inexpensive talent as possible.
That's most easily attainable through the draft, and—especially considering New York's lack of selections through the rest of the decade—this trade would be conducive to the superteam that the Knicks hope to build.
To make this work under the cap, Oklahoma City could simply send over a portion of its $6.5 million trade exception that it received in the Kevin Martin sign-and-trade. If a deal isn't struck by when the traded player exemption expires on July 11, OKC could send Hasheem Thabeet to New York as a money-match, whom the Knicks could waive free of charge, as long as they do it before September.
Signing-and-Trading 'Melo to Chicago
Sign-and-Trade Carmelo Anthony to Chicago for Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, rights to Nikola Mirotic and Draft Considerations
If Carmelo Anthony informs Knicks management that he intends to flee the Big Apple, New York could immediately begin to explore sign-and-trade options. Simply accepting the open cap space that would result in him leaving would be another worthy route, but here's how the Knicks could go about getting some compensation.
If the Bulls are Anthony's preferred destination, the team would have to do some maneuvering to create the space necessary to bring him in. They're currently a tick over the projected salary cap next season, but that can change with either a Carlos Boozer amnesty or including him in a trade for 'Melo.
A package of Boozer and Mike Dunleavy being sent to New York would allow for Anthony to make roughly $20 million in his first season with the Bulls. Boozer and Dunleavy's deals expire after 2014-15.
If Anthony opts out as expected, the Knicks won't be able to deal him until free agency begins, which means there's no way Chicago can trade 2014 picks to New York in a 'Melo deal. The Knicks could receive the players Chicago selects at Nos. 16 and/or 19 in a July deal, but only after they've been selected.
The true coup in this deal for New York, though, would be Nikola Mirotic, who is widely regarded as the best European player yet to make the transition to the NBA. This past season with Real Madrid, the 6'10" power forward shot 54 percent on two-pointers and 46 percent (41-of-89) on three-pointers. He's still only 23 and may enter the NBA in 2014-15 or 2015-16.
Whatever the Knicks get in return for Anthony will forever be compared to what they originally lost for him (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, et al), but the 16th and/or 18th selections in this year's draft as well as Mirotic would be tough to complain about as a Knicks fan.
Signing-and-Trading 'Melo to Houston
Sign-and-Trade Carmelo Anthony to Houston for Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Draft Considerations
Like the Bulls, Houston would have serious roster-altering to do before Anthony could become a possibility. But, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Anthony tops their priority list this offseason (besides that LeBron dude in Miami):
For those asking why Rockets not cited in Love mix: I keep hearing they're focused on Melo hunt ... and seeing if they can get in LeBron mix— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 20, 2014
Like Chicago again, as of now the Rockets are right around the projected salary cap line for next season. Acquiring 'Melo would almost certainly require a sign-and-trade deal, with a combination of Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons coming back New York's way.
You may remember news breaking that Parsons' minuscule $964,750 team option will be declined, potentially opening the door for him to walk away this summer.
In reality, the decision was made by Daryl Morey's front office with a few things in mind. First, Houston wants to be in control of Parsons' situation, and declining the option makes him a restricted free agent this summer, as opposed to an unrestricted on in 2015. Second, clearing his salary, albeit a small one, helps make way for larger figures of Carmelo, LeBron James or another star.
Third, and most pertinent to this discussion, Parsons becoming an RFA may allow for him to be sent to New York in a sign-and-trade, for a salary that helps match star money in trades. To help explain, Bleacher Report's Dan Favale wrote about this earlier in June:
At slightly over $960,000 next season, Parsons isn't going to net the Rockets a star. He has the talent and promise, but he lacks the salary. Anthony made more than 20 times that last season.
Signing him to a new contract as part of the deal increases his financial value, making it easier for the trade to go through. If he's making $10 million or more annually, perhaps the Rockets are only forced to give up either Jeremy Lin or Omer Asik in any swap.
Signing a player past the summer of 2015 and 2016 may give Jackson pause, but when given the chance to add a young piece as talented as Parsons, it would be hard to turn away. The team would also have Tyson Chandler's and Amar'e Stoudemire's money coming off the books anyway, so there will still be money left to spend even with Parsons potentially inked for the long term.
An ironic return to the Garden for Jeremy Lin would solve the Knicks problems at point guard—at least for the time being. The contract he signed with Houston in 2012 expires after the upcoming year.
Finally, if Jackson persists, Houston has as many as six picks in its possession for the 2015 draft, which could be sent to Manhattan to round out the deal.
Putting an end to the 'Melo era in New York won't be easy for fans to stomach, but if it nets building blocks moving forward, success shouldn't be far off, with a little help from Phil upstairs.