Tyson Chandler’s three-year stint with the New York Knicks has come to an end, as the team has agreed to send him back to the Dallas Mavericks. The Knicks traded the starting center in a six-player deal to Dallas on Wednesday.
In addition to Chandler, the Mavericks also receive point guard Raymond Felton. Point guards Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin are headed to New York, along with center Samuel Dalembert and shooting guard Wayne Ellington. The Knicks also acquired the 34th and 51st picks in Thursday's draft.
For the Knicks, the trade has several free-agent implications, but most importantly, it could affect New York’s pursuit of re-signing All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.
When Chandler came to New York in 2011, he made an immediate contribution and became the first player in franchise history to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Anthony and Chandler were reportedly very close, having been teammates for three seasons, including on the 2012 USA basketball team. According to Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal, Anthony told team president Phil Jackson that Chandler was the teammate he trusted the most.
While Chandler was an important player for the Knicks, there’s a good chance the move will translate into more wins for New York in the 2014-2015 season. Last year, Chandler wasn’t close to being the best defensive player in the league. He only played 55 games because of injuries, and missed 16 games in the previous season.
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The other aspects of the trade certainly make the Knicks a better team. Felton was one of the NBA’s worst point guards last season, averaging a career-low in points, while allowing opponents to drive to the basket with ease. Calderon is a significant upgrade and a good fit for the triangle offense. Dalembert will give the Knicks a good defensive presence, and Larkin has a lot of potential.
After failing to reach the NBA Finals for the first 11 years of his career, Anthony wants to sign with a team that has a chance to win next season. The trades don't make the Knicks a contender, but it’s a sign that New York isn’t simply throwing away the 2014-2015 season to get under the salary cap next summer.
Jackson is probably not done making moves and could still deal Larkin or Dalembert, which would give the Knicks more flexibly to improve the team. Doing so could would put the Knicks slightly under the projected salary cap of $62.3 million. A potential deal could also land the Knicks another draft pick. Before trading Chandler, the Knicks didn’t have a pick in the deepest draft in more than a decade. Now, New York has two selections, with the possibility of adding another.
Trading Chandler and his near $15 million contract lowers the Knicks’ payroll, and puts them in a position to possibly shed even more salary. But it doesn’t do much to help them sign Anthony and another free agent.
Because Anthony has been on the Knicks since 2011, he can get a max contact from New York, no matter the team's payroll. The contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, which add up to more than $35 million next season, will prohibit them from handing out any other big deals.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard reports that the Knicks are on the short list of teams that LeBron James will consider joining. While James will become a free agent on July 1 and might have an interest in heading to the Big Apple, it will be close to impossible for the Knicks to get in a position to sign him.
The Knicks could clear cap space by trading Stoudemire’s contract, but it’s hard to imagine New York finding a team that is eager to trade for the big man and that can fit his $23.4 million under the cap. Bovadal.lv has listed betting odds for where James will play next season, and the Knicks didn't even make the cut.
The idea of James and Anthony teaming up is gaining traction, and teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers have the cap space to think about the possibility, though it won't be easy to get done. The two stars have virtually no chance of playing together in New York.