Tyson Chandler is one of the more underappreciated Knicks. He never has gotten the credit deserved for being as close to automatic around the rim as anyone in the NBA and smartly taking only shots he can make. Upon fracturing his fibula this past Tuesday (Michael Vick fans just cringe when thinking of that injury) many local sports personalities said the one bright side is that Chandler doesn’t score much so that loss will be minimal. While no one would underestimate Chandler’s defensive impact saying he doesn’t help the team score is just plain wrong.
Last year the Knicks set the record for threes attempted and made in a season in the NBA. Obviously this can be chalked to in part because of the shooters, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Novak, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, and JR Smith all have very good seasons from beyond the arc (something that will be hard to replicate this year) but Tyson Chandler also had a big hand in this as well.
Chandler the last two seasons has been about as good as can be around the basket. In the 2011-2012 season he became only the third player in the history of the NBA to shoot over 67% for the season (along with Artis Gilmore and some guy named Wilt Chamberlain) and last year shot about 64% from the field.
Because Chandler’s low post game is lacking the offense needs to be more creative in getting Chandler shots to take advantage of his absurdly high conversion rate. This is best done via pick and rolls. Chandler and Chris Paul mastered these in New Orleans and Felton and Chandler don’t make a bad team either.
Since Chandler is a guarantee to score if he can dunk on a pick and roll the opposing defense has no choice but to send help as he rolls to the rim opening up the floor for the shooters. This coupled with the smaller lineup (which Coach Mike Woodson has inexplicably tried to stray from this year) allowed the Knicks to just crush opponents both from three and at the rim. This is mainly why the team was third in offensive efficiency with Chandler being a part of the most successful lineups on the team.
Another area of Chandler’s game that was underappreciated up until last year was his offensive rebounding ability. According to 82games.com the Knicks had an offensive rebounding rate of 30.3% when Chandler played and 24.7% when he did not. Similarly, the team rebounds at a 73.1% clip when he plays and 70.5% when he sits. For overall rebounding rate the team obtains 51.7% of available rebounds when the big man is on the floor and 47.6% when he is resting on the bench.
This makes a huge difference throughout a game and is be one that will be very difficult to make up. Those “Tyson tap outs” that he seemed to perfect last season were a huge contributor to open threes for the Knicks that not only helped the Knicks but demoralized opposing defenses by extending what looked to be successful defensive possessions. Considering the other big men on the team are Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Kenyon Martin (Bargnani is currently averaging two rebounds a game or one every 10.5 minutes he is on the floor) having these extra possessions to give the Knicks another chance to at least get to the line or get an open three seems unlikely.
Defensively Chandler not only helps suppress scoring but he helps force teams into tougher shots. The Knicks allow less dunks and layups when Chandler plays while giving up more shots from mid-range, a notoriously inefficient spot on the floor to shoot from. With the only big acquisition for the Knicks this offseason being Andrea Bargnani, Chandler not there to clean up the mess when guards fly by Felton or when Anthony badly misses a rotation may result in the Knicks defense sliding into the bottom 5-7 in the league.
Overall this loss is as about as bad as the Knicks could have had. Because of his ability to greatly impact both sides of the floor it can be argued that Chandler is the most indispensable player on the team. The Knicks needs to figure how they will compensate for his absence and immediately or the fight for home court in the first round may turn into the fight to be in the first round.