NBA Free Agency: Knicks, Nets Stand Chance To Soar

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 10: Center Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks is fouled by Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks at American Airlines Center on March 10, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

As NBA free agency arrives, the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets look to be in great position to make moves that will pay off for years and kick-start the teams' borough rivalry.

NBA free agency officially begins at 2 p.m. ET on Friday. Teams will be allowed to officially ink free agent players to new contracts, and clubs will be able to make trades for the first time since June 30 ... provided that David Stern doesn't veto them first.

Some teams are expected to remain quiet, either content with big moves made in 2010 free agency or looking forward to 2012. But about half of the league is looking to make a big splash via signing or traded. Of those, a handful -- led by the two teams of New York -- stand to grab the greatest boost to their fortunes over the next couple of weeks.

For full free agent lists, rumor round-ups and salary cap information for all 30 teams, please see our 2010 NBA Free Agency Previews.

SOARING HIGH

The New York Knicks reportedly reached a deal with free agent center Tyson Chandler on Thursday, bringing in the All-Defense pivot on a four-year deal worth more than $50 million. Chandler immediately solves the Knicks' most obvious deficiency: defense. The Knicks rated No. 22 in the NBA in defense last season, with scoring stud Amar'e Stoudemire picking up too much work at the center position. According to 82games.com, Stoudemire played 49 percent of the Knicks' available minutes at center. 

With Chandler in place, that number should drop precipitously. With the Dallas Mavericks last season, Chandler showed the importance of a team's ability to stop dribble penetration in a guard-dominant league, as well as shining a bright light on the power of quality pick-and-roll defense. Few big men hedge or trap the guard on a pick-and-roll like Chandler, and that will be an important tool against Eastern powers like the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, both of whom rely heavily on penetration and high screens.

Offensively, Chandler is master rebounder on the glass and a highly effective finisher. The Knicks will apparently lose Chauncey Billups to make way for Chandler, leaving just rookie Iman Shumpert and combo guard Toney Douglas available at point guard. The Knicks should be able to use their mid-level exception on a point guard, and there are rumors Baron Davis could become an amnesty waiver by the Cleveland Cavaliers. While he's a poor shooter and has been disappointing in recent years, the specter of a playoff chase could be great motivation. With Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire in place, he won't be asked to score too much.

READY FOR TAKE-OFF

The New Jersey Nets -- who will move to Brooklyn in 2012 -- are looking for a center, too, and just might have him soon. Reports suggest that Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard will ask or has asked his team to trade him to the Nets in advance of the All-Star's 2012 free agency. The Nets have offered up Brook Lopez and two first-round draft picks; it remains to be seen whether Magic GM Otis Smith will receive better offers from teams that can convince Howard to sign with them in the offseason. (By being traded a team he'll sign with, Howard stands to gain about $25-30 million in extra guaranteed salary with an extra season included.)

If the Nets do get Howard, the team will be entering Brooklyn roaring like a jet. With Deron Williams at point guard and Howard at center, the Nets would have one of (if not the) premier guard-big man combos in the league. Williams, also scheduled to be a free agent in 2012, has said that if the Nets do add Howard, he would consider that enough to keep his services. Howard's never had a guard near the caliber of D-Will, and D-Will hasn't had a finisher quite like Dwight (though Carlos Boozer in his prime was solid).

The team's defense will be unimpeachable: that Howard had the otherwise slow-footed Magic near the top of defensive rankings last season is nothing short of a miracle, and Williams is a solid stopper who has size and foot-speed on the perimeter. They'll need some more pieces -- sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and back-up point guard Jordan Farmar look like strong contributors -- but the base of a contender will be established in Year 1 in BK.

For full coverage of free agency and trades, stay glued to our NBA Rumors StoryStream.

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