The NBA offseason and free agency period is still weeks away, so guessing what Glen Grunwald and the Knicks have up their sleeves is difficult. What is known, however, is that the Knicks have little flexibility this summer in regards to upgrading their roster. They have the 24th pick in the draft, the mini-MLE to try and sign or re-sign their own free agents, and little after that besides the veteran’s minimum.
The worry is that the Knicks have already topped out as a team this season. There’s almost no youth on the team except for Iman Shumpert, andthe rest of the players are either declining with age or settled into their roles and skill level. The Knicks have obviously built themselves with the hope of competing for the Eastern Conference, and with few ways to improve, they may never reach that level.
Glen Grunwald has said he’d like to keep the core of the team together, but if the Knicks are really trying to make a big splash this offseason, a major trade would be the way to do that. The Knicks are fond of Iman Shumpert, their youngest, most attractive asset, so he likely won’t be leaving. Amar’e Stoudemire, with his bloated, two-year, $44-million contract and untrustworthy body, is unlikely to be taken on by any team, never mind getting a better package in return. So that leaves Tyson Chandler.
The idea is laughable. Chandler has been one of the most indispensable Knicks, single-handedly tying their defense together in 2011-12, and acting as an overall anchor thereafter. There’s a legitimate argument that the Knicks would struggle mightily without Chandler directing the defense (they were 16th in Defensive Efficiency in 2012-13; imagine not having Chandler at all) and acting as the primary roller in the spread pick-and-roll offense in which the Knicks thrived.
However, it’s plausible that the Knicks would part ways with Chandler, depending on the returning package. Chandler will be 31 this season and has over 26,000 career minutes (playoffs included) under his belt. He’s had a career-long tendency for injuries and suffered from neck, back, wrist, and health problems this season. With two years and over $28-million left on his contract, the Knicks could get a few players back for him, or another high-salaried player. Plus, (sadly) unlike Stoudemire at this point, Chandler still brings an elite skill and level of consistency that would be attractive to other teams.
As mentioned, it’d be difficult parting with Chandler because of the stability he brings to defense, a locker room, and his limited, but effective ways on offense. However, there’s reason to believe the Knicks may have seen the best of Chandler already. After starting the season off hot, Chandler’s numbers rescinded mightily. After a monster 16-point, 28-board outing against the Golden State Warriors on February 27, Chandler didn’t register a double-double the rest of the season, while he also missed 16 of the last 28 games of the season. His pre- and post-All-Star splits tell the tale:
- Pre-All-Star: 11.4 points, 67.3% FG, 11.1 rebounds, 1 block
- Post-All-Star: 7.6 points, 50% FG, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks
He battled injuries the second half of the season, and got sick right before the playoffs for the second year in a row. He was miserable in the postseason, averaging just 5.7 points per game on 53% shooting with 7 rebounds per game. He was badly out-played by the Pacers’ front-court and looked like a shell of his usual, paint-roaming, energetic self. Chandler has limited impact on offense besides for catching lobs, and as he ages, that skill will diminish. In his two years in New York, he hasn’t really shown a commitment to expanding his offensive repertoire. Likewise, as he gets older, his ability to scramble around the floor on defense, help from the weakside, switch on to smaller players, and hedge screens will also lessen.
It’s impossible to tell what the Knicks would look to get in exchange for Chandler, if they would even consider trading him. One would have to expect another, lesser quality center, along with another player, or maybe a draft pick. It would also have to be a deal that either immediately benefits one of the Knicks’ weaknesses or significantly impacts their future.
It seems unlikely, but if the Knicks struggle to make moves in free agency, it’s a possible situation to look for.