Tyson Chandler was acquired by the Knicks through a sign-and-trade with the Dallas Mavericks at the onset of the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. Chandler immediately made an impact on the team last year, playing a major role in turning the Knicks from 21st in defensive efficiency in 2010-11 to 5th by the close of the season. His absence only further highlighted his importance to the defense: the Knicks allowed over 110 points per game in each of the four games Chandler missed during the regular season. In general, Tyson serves as an on-court and off-court leader for the team, picking teammates up or giving them advice during the game, or being the most vocal cheerleader on the bench. It’s not a stretch to say that Chandler could be the most important player on the Knicks.
While Chandler’s defensive accolades are well-known, his contributions on offense last year were actually historical! Chandler shot 68% from the field last year and just under 69% from the free throw line, which gave him the seventh best true shooting percentage of all time in the NBA. Around the rim, Chandler is nearly automatic, but that is about all he offers on offense. According to Hoopdata, Chandler attempted just two shots from outside of nine feet last year. Even his 44 attempts from 3-9 feet likely ventured closer to three or four feet distances than eight or nine feet. It’s worth mentioning that Chandler’s paint-bound presence likely had an effect on Amar’e Stoudemire’s sudden regression on offense. Coming into training camp, Chandler claims to have worked on a baby jump shot this summer – a plausible idea considering his fairly accurate stroke and mechanics at the free throw line – and he spent a few days training with Hakeem Olajuwon with other members of the Knicks front-court. An expanded offensive game from Chandler would make him one of the best two-way centers in the league, and give Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire more room around the basket.
As the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, it’s safe to say that Chandler’s strongest facet is defense. Though his winning the award may have been caused by a combination of voter fatigue and general disgust with Dwight Howard at the time, Chandler’s defense is still really impressive, especially when actually watching him on the court. His defensive stats don’t necessarily jump off the page – 1.4 blocks per game, .9 steals per game – but it’s the intangibles that he brings in the game that really stand out. This previous season, Chandler was the anchor to the Knicks’ defense, calling out screens and switches, giving help to teammates over-matched, hedging pick-and-rolls, all while generally deterring paint-drivers and being the Knicks’ most effective rebounder. His notable absence on the floor will be slightly mitigated this season by Marcus Camby’s similar greatness, but make no mistake about how important Chandler is to the team’s defense. Without him last season, the Knicks were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.
For as important as Chandler is to the team, his role is a pretty simple one: try his damnedest to keep the other team from scoring, clean up around the basket on offense. While he is not a flawless player – his offensive game is limited, he as trouble guarding quicker centers or centers with jumpers, he gets quite flustered by players with a similar on-court demeanor as himself – he may also still be the Knicks’ most flawless player. Rarely does Chandler ever make mistakes and the obvious boost he gives the Knicks lessens the severity of those infrequent blunders. There is also a sense that when Chandler speaks, teammates listen, which is another aspect that can’t be given a definite value.