When newly hired Knicks President Phil Jackson started cleaning up his roster in the offseason, Tyson Chandler was the first to go along with troubled guard Raymond Felton. But while the move to ship out Felton was imminent, Chandler’s ouster was a bit surprising.

Jackson cited cap flexibility and chemistry problems as the main reasons for shipping out both players.  Chandler was hobbled with injuries during his final years at New York. He was definitely not living up to their expectations as his numbers were was far from the statistics that earned him a $60M contract after winning the 2011 NBA title as the defensive anchor in Dallas. But was everything Tyson Chandler’s fault?

Lost in New York

In New York, Chandler had a lot of bad defenders around him so no matter how good a defensive player he is, he couldn’t make up for the defensive lapses of the other players on the court, especially since he was dealing with all those injuries. The result? The Knicks’ opponents had a better offensive rating with Chandler off the court rather than when he was playing. The difference wasn’t much though at 0.4 points per 100 possessions. But with Chandler’s defensive prowess, that was unfathomable. Offensively, Knicks were simply running isolation plays for Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith instead of involving Chandler in pick and roll plays. The ball wasn’t moving around, as Knicks were 23rd in the league in passes and 28th in assists per game last season, and Chandler never really found his offensive spot in the Big Apple.

A Better Version

Before the season began, there were questions about the return of Tyson Chandler to Dallas. Many said that he is no longer the same that player he was in 2011. Chandler is now 32 and was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. But that has not been the case so far.

Chandler has thrived in a much organized Dallas system. Chandler is averaging 11.5 rebounds per game (5th in the NBA) and 1.5 blocks per game (16th in the NBA). And while Dallas isn’t one of the top defenses in the NBA right now, Chandler’s presence makes a huge difference. Dallas allows 6.8 more points per 100 possessions when Chandler is not on the court. As a testament to his rim protection skills, the Mavericks are tied with the Golden State Warriors for the least FG% allowed within 5 feet from the basket. Aside from these, the Mavericks currently own the most efficient offense in the NBA at 114.10 points per 100 possessions. Chandler is also contributing to that by shooting the ball at a career best .689 from the field (3rd in the NBA), despite attempting more field goals per game than the previous two seasons. His scoring average of 10.7 points per game is the highest in three years.

It’s correct to say that Tyson Chandler isn’t the same player he was in 2011, but it’s only because we’re seeing a better version of him this season.

Is Chandler a Difference Maker?

When the trade for Chandler was consummated, Phil Jackson said that they were getting players who were a better fit to the system. The truth is, nobody has fitted to the triangle system at this stage of the season. The Knicks are 4-20 and are off to the worst start in franchise history. On the other hand, the Mavericks are 17-7 in the tough Western Conference. They may be just the seventh seed right now, but they are just 3 ½ games behind the league leading Warriors.

The Knicks are 29th in the league in rebounding (39.0) and are 27th in the league in defensive efficiency at 108.2 points per 100 possessions. With a struggling Chandler last season, they were still at 106.5 in defensive efficiency.  Offense is the Knicks’ biggest problem this season as they are 21st in offensive efficiency (101.4). But would more rebounds lead to more possessions and thus more shot attempts and possibly more points scored? Chandler is averaging 6 more rebounds per game than Samuel Dalembert this season so would that have made a difference?

 

As the Knicks continue to struggle, the Mavs are in the thick of the fight in the Wild West and are hoping for one final championship run in the Dirk Nowitzki era. Phil Jackson is known as the Zen Master with the Midas touch because every place he’s been has turned in gold. But did he ship the wrong guy out of New York?