Last week, reports emerged that the New York Knicks' front office was not entertaining trade offers for center Tyson Chandler. The team appears steadfast in retaining Chandler, their defensive linchpin who's supposedly a component of their long-term plans.
At the time, the Knicks were in the midst of a five-game winning streak that included impressive victories over the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, both halves of last year's NBA Finals. Their unwillingness to listen to trade proposals involving Chandler was well received by a disgruntled fanbase that finally had reason to feel a bit optimistic about a disappointing season.
Most of the positive vibes from the winning streak have since evaporated.
In the last four days, the Knicks have suffered three consecutive losses by a combined 52 points. They fell to the underwhelming Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday. On Thursday, they were blown out by the Indiana Pacers in a contest that revealed the divergent paths that the two franchises have taken since meeting in last year's playoffs. And to cap it off, they were throttled on their home court on Friday night by a Clippers team missing their MVP-candidate point guard, Chris Paul.
Three games is certainly not enough to change the mindset of a front office, but this week has reminded New York that the Knicks are still a great distance from being a top-tier team.
With that in mind, perhaps they should revisit the idea of shopping Chandler and seeing what kind of chips they can get in return.
What is really the value for the Knicks in keeping Chandler?
He is a crowd favorite, an energizer in the middle and one of only a handful of Knicks who actually play plus defense. It's tempting to cling to him in hopes that the Knicks turn their season around.
But even if the Knicks do climb back toward .500 and make the playoffs, they would still probably have to go through games against both Indiana and Miami, a daunting task for a struggling team. Playoff berths are neat, but they come pretty cheap in the Eastern Conference these days, and it doesn't make sense to mortgage the team's future based on the hopes of playing an extra week or so into May.
Chandler's immediate value to the team, therefore, is at most a contribution toward a season with limited success.
The long-term appeal of keeping Chandler, on the other hand, is rooted in trying to lure Carmelo Anthony, a free agent after the season, back to New York this summer. The plan is have an existing squad—complete with Chandler—that is appealing enough for Anthony to re-sign.
The next step would be to sign at least one of the superstars who would become free agents in 2015, a group that includes point guards Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker and big men Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The logic behind such a scheme is flawed, though, since Chandler's contract expires that same summer.
If the Knicks plan to make the leap prior to the 2015-16 season by pairing Anthony with another superstar, then why would the promise of having Chandler for the 2014-15 season be a key stipulation designed to keep Anthony around?
If Anthony is going to agree to spend the last competitive stretch of his career in New York, it probably won't be contingent on one year of Chandler defending the paint.
Moving forward, the Knicks might not have the financial means or the desire to sign Chandler as well in 2015, especially since fellow centers Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert will also be on the market. Plus, bringing him back would equate to pinning their hopes on a 33-year-old center with a history of injuries.
If Chandler's value probably doesn't go beyond next season, the Knicks might benefit from using him to test the trade waters now. It's highly unlikely they would receive anything groundbreaking in return, since, as fellow Bleacher Report writer Dan Favale pointed out, no team would be willing to part with a lottery pick or star player for an aging center with unexceptional offensive skill.
Smaller pieces, such as a late pick in this year's draft from a current contender, or means to a cheaper future, such as expiring or less expensive deals, could be obtained. If the Knicks could somehow ship expensive assets such as J.R. Smith or Andrea Bargnani along with Chandler, there would be even more incentive to make a move.
The Knicks shouldn't feel compelled to trade Chandler, especially if they are unable to explicitly improve their prospects for the next several seasons through such a swap.
For a team that has been very vocal about building a championship-caliber franchise in the next two years, though, it would be silly to just let the phone go unanswered. Chandler's greatest contribution to the Knicks' future may not be as tomorrow's starting center but, rather, as today's trade bait.
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