Wilson Chandler's improved shooting from three-point range has been huge for the Knicks and his stock. (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
As we near the trade deadline and head toward the uncertain offseason, officials around the league will scour rosters thinking about moves big and small. One of the trickiest parts of that process is valuing potential restricted free agents at the end of their rookie deals. If you trade for them, it’s presumably because you want them — they’re young and talented, right? But they also might be due for a raise. And if you pursue one in free agency, you do so with the knowledge that his incumbent team has only to tender a relatively cheap qualifying offer to retain the right to match any rival proposal. (If no qualifying offer is made, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.)
So it’s useful to step back and see which of these players have helped their stock, which have hurt themselves and which have done little to clarify their value.
Starting in the Eastern Conference:
STOCK HAS RISEN
Wilson Chandler, New York Knicks (Qualifying offer: $3,099,851): Chandler may not be playing quite as well as the hype suggests, but he has improved, and some team is going to throw a big contract at him. The only big change Chandler has made is his transformation into a league-average three-point shooter — a huge positive, particularly given New York’s philosophy on offense. He’s a great finisher at the rim — in transition and otherwise — and he has a diverse game that would transfer anywhere.
He’s not an elite defender, but he can credibly guard three positions, he works hard and he has no glaring bad habits. If Carmelo Anthony gets to the free-agent market, the Knicks (if they want him) will almost certainly have to renounce their rights to Chandler to free up enough cap space — and even shedding Chandler might not open Carmelo-level room. (Nothing is certain until we see the new collective bargaining agreement, of course.) But teams will approach Chandler differently if they know they don’t have to bargain against the Knicks. This will be fascinating to watch.
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers ($3,992,108): Young has one indisputable NBA skill: He can score. That may be the only thing he can do at an above-average level, but he has done it more efficiently this season than ever before. Young is shooting 54 percent, in part because he has abandoned the three-point shot in favor of attacking the rim.
He has not shown much in the way of defense or passing, though his lack of assists this season may be in part the result of his role as one of Philadelphia’s designated go-to-the-hole bench scorers. His mid-range shot is so-so, and he has functioned at a much higher level in each of the last two seasons as a small-ball power forward rather than as a more “traditional” small forward.