As usual there has been no shortage of NBA trade rumors following the New York Knicks. Surprisingly, ever since Steve Mills unceremoniously replaced Glen Grunwald as GM, there has been very little action at all. Nearly every player on the roster has been involved in some sort of possible deal “according to sources”. That is but one: Tyson Chandler.
This isn’t to say that there haven’t been offers for the Knicks cherished defensive anchor. A few weeks ago ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the Knicks have actually refused to entertain the many offers they have gotten for Chandler. Yes this is strange considering the number of reports on possible Carmelo Anthony trade destinations that have been deliberated on, all while the Knicks appear to have no contingency plan in the event Melo leaves.
Chandler is undoubtedly the heart and soul of this team and his defensive prowess is certainly invaluable on a team where some players personally disavowed themselves from the responsibilities of playing defense. I also consider Chandler my favorite player on the team but I just can’t see the logic of making him untouchable.
When Chandler won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, I was elated to finally have that trophy back in the hands of a Knicks player after growing up and watching guys like Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Patrick Ewing, and even Marcus Camby prove that defense was a staple of New York basketball.
I was even happier to see his defense warranting him a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. However, those days of demonstrative blocks and being the Knicks undisputed team leader seem so long ago. At 31 years old and a body that seems less and less durable every season, it makes me think that banking on him to return to the player he was when they signed him to his $55 million contract, well, foolish.
You don’t have to review the game logs to tell that something has been off with Chandler, you can tell just by looking at him stoically look at opposing players drive to the basket with ease; most recently seen against Miami. Then again, at this time last year Chandler already notched 18 double doubles in 43 games while also scoring in double digits 29 times.
This year, Chandler has accumulated only six double doubles while scoring in double digits just 11 times. Yes of course his injury made him miss 20 games less than he did last year at this time, but that’s sort of the point. In actuality, ever since the 2011-12 season, Chandler’s stats have steadily tailed off each year.
His field goal percentage has gone from a league leading 68 percent down to 58 percent, his rebounds went from 10.7 to 8.8 rpg, and his scoring from 11.3 to 8.3 pg. His blocking rate has kept steady at 1.5 per game, but overall, these small drops in productivity are expected of a big man entering his 13th NBA season.
So is it really wise for the Knicks to grip onto Chandler so tightly when another team could make better use of him?
These stats aren’t exactly alarming, but they do suggest that Chandler’s better days are probably behind him. This is why the Knicks rendering Chandler as “untouchable” boggles my mind. Of course there are intangibles that don’t make the box score such as hustle, leadership, and even those offensive tip outs we rarely see these days. Then again, just a week ago, it was Chandler who was publicly criticizing the Knicks coach and just the other night we saw Chandler mildly interested in putting up a good fight against Miami. I still like Chandler but I really think that by not fielding offers for him, the Knicks are only hurting themselves.
Chandler probably wouldn’t yield a huge star, but a package of him and Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, or Raymond Felton could bring back the Knicks much needed assets in the form of draft picks or roster flexibility in the form of some financial relief.
After all, if Melo does leave, what good is Chandler going to be on an anemic offensive team that provides him very little defensive support? And if he stays, is he still the difference maker that he used to be?
The Knicks shouldn’t be fooled by hollow win streaks against bad teams. Losses against playoff-ready teams like Miami and Indiana should make the Knicks realize that this season can’t be saved and shift all efforts on forming a better roster that’s built for the rest of the decade.
I don’t know what the purpose of Mills is, but it says a lot that the most acclaimed roster move was cutting Chris Smith. Sometimes I think his lack of action might even fulfill the purpose of him being here since James Dolan seems so allergic to making any changes at all. The Knicks making myopic trades has always been there downfall, but in this instance, there lack of foresight when it comes to Chandler’s value might hurt them more.