Written by Kenneth Teape
Since taking over as President of the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson has been biding his time for the right move. That move came Wednesday afternoon, as Jackson executed his first big move as lead man for the Knicks, executing a trade with the Dallas Mavericks. The trade, just waiting NBA approval, will send Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Mavericks for Samuel Dalembert, Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin Wayne Ellington, and the 34th and 51st picks in the draft Thursday night.
It is quite a haul for Jackson and the Knicks, as Felton was looked at as a player that would be tough to move after struggling mightily last season with injuries and off-court issues. But the Mavericks coveted Chandler after losing this season in the first round to eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, and were willing to take on what is becoming an albatross contract in Felton. Chandler will be reunited with the team that he helped to defeat the Miami Heat in 2011 NBA Finals in the first season of the ‘Big 3” era.
For the Knicks this is something new to see. Usually they are on the end of a trade with the less attractive pieces coming aboard, but for once it can be argued they won this trade and handedly.
Seeing the Knicks receiving draft picks is one of the rarest sights in recent NBA memory. Prior to Jackson coming aboard, the Knicks treated draft picks like candy on Halloween, just handing them out to whoever asked. But Jackson seems to be changing that philosophy, and seemed hell-bent on getting into this draft.
The Mavericks gave the Knicks that opportunity, sending the 34th and 51st picks. They are only second rounders, but a pick that high in the second round could net the Knicks a valuable player. One person being mentioned is Florida big man Patric Young, whom the Knicks had in for a workout. He would bring plenty of toughness to a Knicks frontcourt that is lacking in that department to put it nicely with the likes of Andrea Bargnani (When he isn’t facing off against Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets).
For starters, Calderon and Dalembert are an upgrade over Felton and Chandler. Calderon is an outstanding fit in the triangle offense with his deadly accuracy from the perimeter and limited turnover rates. The triangle offense makes the need for a top flight PG less important, but a player like Calderon should thrive there as a spot up three-point shooter.
People will point out that Calderon actually has a contract longer than Felton did, but depending on what direction the Knicks take from here that should not be much of a problem. Flipping Calderon at a later date, if the need arises, should not be tough for the Knicks. He is more than serviceable point guard that a team would be willing to take on if the need for a point guard is apparent.
Calderon could also help the Knicks in recruiting, as Marc Gasol becomes a free agent next summer. Calderon and Gasol are close from their time playing with the Spain National Team, and his presence on the Knicks should entice him to come to New York to play alongside Calderon.
Dalembert may be a downgrade according to some people, but he should be able to hold his own in the middle of the defense. Like Chandler, he does not possess much of a face-up offensive game, which hurts his value in the triangle offense, but he is a better offensive rebounder at this point than Chandler, and is also a more efficient finisher. But it is worth repeating, Dalembert will not be playing for his offensive prowess, if he even makes it to the court at all as a Knick.
Dalembert’s contract for the upcoming season is actually not fully guaranteed, meaning the Knicks could just cut him and save even more money. As it currently sits, the Knicks should save about $3 million but that could reach as much as $5 million depending on what is done with Dalembert and because he has a 15 percent trade kicker. It is also worth noting, if he does play, that he actually had better per 36 minute stats last season than Chandler, averaging 11.8 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks compared to 10.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for Chandler.
The other pieces the Knicks made could also come in handy. Ellington offers another contract the Knicks could offer up if other moves are to be made, but on the court he will help in an area the Knicks had a severe drop off last season; perimeter shooting. In his career, Ellington is a 38.6 percent shooter from behind the arc, shooting 42.4 percent last season and 39.6 percent in 2013. He should be able to carve out a role similar to what Steve Novak thrived in during the Knicks successful 2013 season.
The big piece and x-factor in this trade is Larkin. The 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Larkin was a player the Knicks had actually had on their radar. He is undersized at 5’11” and 176 pounds, but he has great athleticism, holding the highest vertical jump for a point guard at the NBA Combine with a 44” leap last season. He did struggle last season as a rookie, like plenty of people in that draft class, but SCHOENE projections has Larkin pegged for being a very good backup at the very least by the time his rookie contract comes to an end.
The Knicks may not be the team that sees that jump in production though, as rumors already have been swirling that they were looking to flip Dalembert and Larkin to another team barely after this trade became official. No one is sure yet what this trade means in the big picture for the Knicks other than Jackson himself, but you can be assured this will be a much more active summer for New York than people originally thought. Jackson fired off his first move today, but smart money would be on this not being the last.