The NBA’s trade deadline is just ten days away and rumors are starting fly about players that could be on the move and teams looking to change their roster. The New York Knicks are one of those teams said to be involved in negotiations to try and fix their roster either for this season or the long-term.
The Knicks, however, are in an uncomfortable position entering this final week and a half. With each passing day, Carmelo Anthony inches closer towards free agency where there’s no guarantee he’ll stay with the Knicks or bolt for a team with a brighter future. Several reports have surfaced saying that the Knicks aren’t going to look to trade Anthony before the deadline, instead opting to find another star running mate to please Anthony and make the Knicks more competitive.
But despite the hopefully thinking, this isn’t a realistic plan for the Knicks. First and foremost, they lack the desirable assets for another team to give up a superstar for. Currently, the Knicks’ most attractive trade pieces are Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tyson Chandler — one of whom is a young, cheap talent with a bright future, the other is 31-years old and perhaps the final piece for a championship squad, not a team dumping off a superstar. Earlier in the year, Iman Shumpert was an attractive asset, but given his lackluster seasons, no team is going to give up much for him while his value is low. Furthermore, the Knicks don’t have a first-round pick eligible to be traded until 2018, so they can’t sweeten the deal with picks either.
Of course, the Knicks could combine several of these assets to make for an attractive trade package, but they’d simply be committing the same crime they did in 2011 when they traded for Anthony: stripping the team of its depth and leaving two stars out to dry with a weak supporting cast.
All of this means that instead of feebly trying to make a championship push this season to entice Anthony to stay, the Knicks need to roll the dice on a quick rebuild — or “retool,” rather — and hope they can sell ‘Melo on the idea.
Instead of simply trading away their assets, the Knicks need to collect them. While the Knicks don’t have many draft picks, they do have some young, talented players, and a couple of supporting pieces worth keeping around. First, the biggest move they’d need to make towards this retool is trading Tyson Chandler.
While Chandler is obviously a valuable piece to this team, a fan-favorite whose cemented himself as one of the hardest workers in the league, he’s also nearing his end with the Knicks. Chandler, recently, looks fed up with the Knicks, exasperated by the losing and unaccountability of much of the squad on defense. After defensive lapses, Chandler hangs his head, defeated by the same constant errors night-in and night-out. On the season, Chandler has a -1.8 net rating, surprising given how important his place is on the roster. In the three year’s he’s spent with the Knicks, this season he is averaging lows in points per game, field goal percentage, and rebounds.
Trading Chandler would do two things: take money off the Knicks’ books earlier than 2015 and allow them to gather more assets. Chandler won’t fetch an incredible return, but the Knicks should be able to at least get a draft pick for him. If the Knicks could find a middling playoff team looking for a boost, they should trade Chandler for a 2014 first-round pick and perhaps a player on an expiring deal, so long as the salaries match.
From there, the Knicks would have the start of their rebuild. It would be ideal to find someone to take either Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani off of the Knicks’ hands, but it’s too uncertain (or unlikely) to theorize about it now.
In the meantime, though, the Knicks would have the start of their rebuild. With or without Anthony, entering 2014-15, the Knicks would have a new rookie; young, cheap assets in Hardaway Jr., Shumpert, and Jeremy Tyler (who should certainly figure into the Knicks’ long-term plans); and following the season, cap space once Bargnani and Stoudemire are off the books.
The Knicks would have to sell Anthony on the idea of waiting a year for the Knicks to truly be competitive again, but if he’s willing, it would be a quick, less painful way of turning things around. If Anthony isn’t willing to wait through a rebuilding year, then the Knicks would still have the option of granting him a sign-and-trade to a team, in which case the Knicks could still get more assets in return.
It’s tough for a team to give in on a season and settle for mediocrity, but the Knicks need to be thinking long-term. They’re 1-4 in February, and even though they’re still well within the range of making the playoffs, they have to wonder how much a first- or second-round exit is worth if they were to make it. Instead, by trading Chandler, collecting assets, and planning a retooling period over two years, they could rather quickly get themselves out of their current mess.
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