Coming into the 2012-13 season, perhaps no player on the New York Knicks roster received such wide praise as Tyson Chandler. The year before, Chandler’s first in New York, he was arguably the most celebrated player on the roster aside from Jeremy Lin, who, of course, didn’t return last season. And with the reassembled roster for 2012, there was reason to believe Chandler could be even better — he had a stable point guard rotation to feed him in the pick-and-roll, floor-spreaders surrounding him, and a reliable back-up center in Marcus Camby (who didn’t end up being all that reliable).
Perhaps the standards were set too high. Chandler slightly regressed in his offensive efficiency, but the notable dip was in his usually cement-like defense where fans had come to expect he’d plug every hole his teammates left open. The Knicks fell to 18th in defensive efficiency, and Chandler’s usual paint-roaming, order-barking presence wasn’t felt as strongly. By the time playoffs came around, Chandler was notably banged up and several pounds lighter due to an illness at the end of the season. He was dominated down low by Roy Hibbert, and resultantly, the Knicks were sent packing by the Indiana Pacers in the second round. Chandler’s season stat line still looked nice: 10.4 points on 63% FG, 10.7 rebounds, and 1 block per game. But there was a difference in the intangibles Chandler usually brings, and the Knicks were worse for whatever was missing from his game.
What We Know
While Carmelo Anthony shoulders the load of how far the Knicks can go, it’s worth pointing out that the Knicks are wholly reliant on Chandler’s rebounding and defense. While it’s fair to criticize the drop in his defensive impact in 2012-13, Chandler also deserves some slack for a weak perimeter D and a switch-happy method that causes mismatches, forcing Chandler to cover for everyone else. Stops and defensive boards would be rare without Chandler helping down low, so when we say his 10.7 boards per game and team defense wasn’t as good last season — it speaks to how good Chandler can be.
What We’ll Need
Chandler’s offense has been the topic of discussion since training camp started this week. In his two seasons in New York, he’s contributed little on offense outside of baskets in the paint — dunks, alley-oops, put-backs, layups. His rare forays out of the paint usually don’t result in baskets, but in his comfort zone near the rim, he’s one of the most efficient in the NBA. He plays an integral part of the Knicks’ spread pick-and-roll offense, and last season he ranked seventh in the NBA in points per possession as the roll man, according to Synergy Sports.
However, when defenses clamp down on his limited offensive skills, it puts the Knicks in a bind, because Chandler has little other impact if he’s not scoring at the rim. Perhaps that’s why he’s claimed to put an emphasis on improving his jump shot and jump hook this offseason and training camp. He appears to be practicing it daily in camp, and he’s said himself that he wants to contribute more on the offensive end of the court. If he can step outside and knock down the occasional jumper, or hit a jump hook with his back to the basket, the Knicks offense will be all the better for it. Offensive contributions are welcome, as long as they don’t interfere with his intensity on defense, where he’s more crucial for the Knicks.
What We Can Expect
Chandler is one of the rocks of the Knicks’ rotation. Every night he gives it his all, and on his best nights, he’s capable of producing some “Wow!”-worthy 20-20 stat lines, filled to the brim with smashing dunks, emphatic blocks, and pure defensive intensity. A player like that can’t be undervalued. However, given his status on the team (he and Anthony are the only truly indispensable players on the roster), he needs to play at an elite level every night if the Knicks truly want to contend.
Chandler’s not the best seven-foot rebounder in the league, but he’s solid. We won’t witness any sort of offensive evolution in Chandler, but an increased skill set would certainly help the Knicks. Basically, Chandler is a somewhat limited player, but the tools he does possess can make a major impact on a basketball team. We can expect more of the same from Chandler as far as stats go, but the intangibles he brings to the Knicks, as mentioned, are crucial. Fans and analysts alike claim the Knicks have been passed by other Eastern Conference teams. Chandler returning to his 2011-12 form could easily change that sentiment.
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