NBA Six Pack: The Case for Chandler as DPOY
1. Tyson Chandler has Revolutionized the Knicks
For the better part of a decade now, particularly under the Mike D’Antoni regime, the Knicks have consistently been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. Coming into this season, it had been over 10 years since New York had finished in even the top half of the league in basically any defensive metrics.
All of that changed this season. And while there are a number of contributory factors that resulted in the Knicks’ vastly improved team defense, there is one primary root cause: Tyson Chandler.
Rarely is one player credited with turning around a team’s defensive aptitude, but Chandler is not your common defender. While his numbers and statistics are impressive (and we’ll highlight/detail them shortly), they don’t tell the whole story. Ask nearly any coach, grizzled veteran or scout, and they’ll likely declare that defense, both on an individual basis and as a collective unit, is more about effort, heart and hustle than it is about athleticism, length and leaping ability. While there may be some NBA players that play as hard as Chandler, no one plays harder and none can claim they exert more effort on the defensive end of the floor. Tyson Chandler, the same who guy signed a monstrous $58 million contract last December, plays every possession like he’s on a 10-day contract. As impressive as his rebounding numbers are, they don’t accurately quantify just how valuable he has been to this team. Due to the incredible effort he expends as a leader, he can rightfully demand maximum effort from his teammates, which he demonstrably does.
Melo’s offensive exploits often get top-billing and “Linsanity” became a worldwide phenomenon, but the real reason the Knicks are a serious threat to potentially upset a top-seeded team in the postseason is because they have (shockingly) emerged as one of the Association’s elite defenses. The turning point that led to this cultural shift within the organization can be traced back to the day Chandler signed on the dotted line and landed in the Big Apple.
As noted above, the case for Chandler as DPOY isn’t solely reliant on subjective superlatives; the numbers hammer home the point, as well. Chandler finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, and is having a statistically better year in 2011-12 – averaging considerably more blocks, more steals and more rebounds.
Further more, the most dramatic differences can be seen in team statistics and the abrupt turnaround from one season (pre-Chandler) to the next. Last year, New York allowed 105.7 points per game (ranked 27th in the NBA); this season that number has dropped to 94.5 (9th overall). Opponents shot 47.2 percent from the field last season; this season opponents are shooting just 43.8 percent. Factoring in pace of play, the numbers are even more impressive. New York is allowing just 99.8 points per 100 possessions, which ranks sixth-best in the entire league. This is the first time New York has allowed under 100 points per 100 possessions since 2001.
And Since Mike Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni, the defense has been ratcheted up to another level. The Knicks are 15-5 with Woodson at the helm, and in those 20 games, New York is holding their opponents to 90.4 points on 42.5 percent shooting. The Knicks have held opponents under 90 points 21 times already this season (20-1 in those contests). Prior to the start of this season, NY had held their opponents below 90 points five times in their previous 95 games. New York has held its opponents under 80 points seven times during the 2011-2012 campaign. New York held its opponents under 80 points just once last season.
And Chandler’s contributions are not just limited to the defensive end. Converting over 68 percent of his field goal attempts, he leads the entire league in field goal percentage (Wilt Chamberlain is the only player in NBA history to shoot over 68% for an entire season). Tyson is also a pest on the offensive boards, constantly keeping possessions alive by slapping caroms back to teammates waiting on the perimeter. He is unquestionably the Knicks’ MVP, and would be a sleeper candidate for NBA MVP if the Knicks had a better record.
The fact that Tyson Chandler didn’t make the All-Star game is farcical; his domination this season of the four centers that were named All-Stars further highlights his incredible campaign. Chandler limited Andrew Bynum to three points (on 1-8 shooting) when the Knicks beat the Lakers at MSG back in February. The Knicks have played the Pacers three times this year, and Roy Hibbert averaged 12.7 ppg and 6.7 rpg, both below his seasonal average – despite playing 28 minutes per contest (higher than his season average of 24 mpg). Chandler also held Marc Gasol to just 12 total points in their lone match-up this year.
But some of Tyson’s best work has come against the man that many believe may stand in the way of him and the DPOY award. New York and Orlando have locked horns three times this season, with the Knicks winning two of those three contests thanks, in large part, to Chandler’s herculean efforts against Dwight Howard. Dwight is averaging just 9.3 points and 7.7 boards in these three games, which is a fraction of his usual nightly output. In New York’s most recent defeat of Orlando on April 5th, Chandler limited Howard to eight point and eight rebounds over 37 minutes. Per Elias, it was only the fourth game of Howard’s NBA career in which he was outscored and outrebounded by the opposing starting center in a game in which he started and played at least 30 minutes.
Nonetheless, despite being left off the All-Star team, Chandler should end up being bestowed an even more impressive honor: 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Old Vets Not Yet Ready to Cede the Stage to Young Pups
This is supposed to be a young man’s game… Every year it seems the new crop of rookies are a little stronger, a little faster and all amazingly athletic. In a league that is criticized for celebrating individual talents, the majority of these individuals are young up-and-comers. Amazingly, Kevin Durant is just 23 years old. Derrick Rose, at the tender age of 21, won the Most Valuable Player award last season.
However, this season we have seen a renaissance from some of the NBA’s “aging” All-Stars.
In what could be classified as a Golden Age of Point Guards, Steve Nash is more than holding his own with these young guns. Despite the fact that he is just 22 months shy of his 40th birthday, Nash is turning in one of his more efficient all-around seasons; and that’s saying something considering this is a guy with two MVP’s on his resume.
Currently, Nash is averaging more assists that Chris Paul and Deron Williams, while shooting a higher percentage from the floor than LeBron James, a higher percentage from the free-throw stripe than Dirk Nowitzki, and more accurate from three-point land than Ryan Anderson.
Nash has seen his playing reduced a bit, so his totals are down in some categories, but he is still insanely effective. In fact, his per-36 minutes averages are actually on par with his first MVP campaign. In 2004-2005, Nash averaged 12.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 16.3 points (on 50.2 FG%) per 36 minutes. This season, he is averaging 12.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and 14.3 points (on 53.5 FG%) per 36 minutes played.
Similar to Nash, many pundits predicted Tim Duncan was running out of gas and was no longer an elite player either. As it turns out, reports of Timmy D’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Duncan’s numbers don’t jump off the page at you because he is playing a career-low 28 minutes a night, but much like Nash, Duncan remains remarkably efficient and effective. Duncan’s per-36 minute averages have an All-NBA first team feel to them: 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks.
Another name mentioned when basketball fans discuss the greatest big men of the modern era, Kevin Garnett has also shown he hasn’t lost much of his fastball. The Celtics were struggling and wallowing in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference until Doc Rivers inserted KG as the starting center. Garnett (and fellow vet Paul Pierce) willed the C’s back amongst the East’s elite, eventually capturing their fifth straight Atlantic Division crown for Boston.
When was the last time three players all on the wrong side of 35 performed at such a high level in the same season?
And, of course, we have to mention Kobe. Although not yet 35, Bryant is getting long in the tooth and had seen his playing time steadily decrease near the end of Phil Jackson’s reign on the Lakers sidelines. Last season, Kobe averaged less than 34 minutes a night for the first time since he was a teenager. This season, head coach Mike Brown has allowed Kobe to play more frequently, and #24 has responded by leading the league in scoring, pouring in over 28 points a night.
3. Radio call of week:
Had to give this its own category — Utah Jazz play-by-play announcer David Locke freaks out when Derrick Favors misses an ‘And-1’ layup in the final seconds of a close game against Memphis.
4. Tweets of the week:
- @APkrawczynski You DEFINITELY didn’t pass the concussion tests. RT @kevinlove: What do you think of my new haircut? http://yfrog.com/oeb4bclcj
- @netw3rk J.R. Smith should’ve been a soccer player so he could celebrate after he scored with no repercussions.
- If you were looking for a player to root against this postseason – here you go RT @IAMAGM Video: Andrew Bynum acting like a ____ during postgame interview (Apr 17, 2012) http://t.co/xlZ03B84
- @WindhorstESPN Next time you want to complain about NBA officials favoring the home team consider this clip from Russian League: http://t.co/gC9ODvUl
- @TommyBeer: Do NOT make Serge Ibaka angry. Seriously… http://withleather.uproxx.com/2012/04/serge-ibaka-will-rip-your-arm-off
5. Dunks of the Week:
* Although it didn’t count – Paul George throws down a 360 windmill.
* Would not have given Randy Foye much of a chance against Sereg Ibaka, but…
* Very rarely does a non-dunk by Blake Griffin appear here, but…
* Vintage Timmy D on Josh McBob.
* Remember when J-Rich used to do this stuff a lot more?
* James Johnson, in camouflage, bangs on Vlad Radmanovic.
* Throwback Dunk of the Week: J.R. Smith proves man can fly (hat tip to Kevin Harlan for the classic call)
6. Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* Per Elias: Pau Gasol registered 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and did not commit a turnover in the Lakers’ win over Golden State on Wednesday night. It is the third time that Gasol has recorded a triple-double without a turnover in his career (he also did that on February 17, 2009 and November 7, 2010). Only two other active players have done that at least three times: Jason Kidd (five) and Grant Hill (three).
* David West scored 21 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and handed out seven assists in the Pacers’ 118-109 home win over the Bucks. Only one other Indiana player in the last 19 years has reached those three statistical levels in the same game. Jermaine O’Neal had 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists against the Celtics on April 12, 2006.
* LeBron James scored 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting from the field to lead the Heat to a victory over the Raptors on Wednesday night. That is James’ highest field-goal percentage (.800) in any of the 609 regular-season games he has played in which he has attempted at least 15 shots from the field. James’ previous best shooting performance was 16-for-21 (.762) on March 18, 2011 and February 13, 2012.
* Dirk Nowitzki scored 35 points and did not commit a turnover in the Mavericks’ victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night. That marks the 32nd time that Nowitzki has scored 30-or-more points without turning the ball over in his career during the regular season, by far the highest total for any active player. The second highest total among current players is 19 by Vince Carter.
* From Elias: Carmelo Anthony recorded a triple-double with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and three of his teammates – J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and Tyson Chandler – scored at least 20 points in the Knicks’ win over the Celtics. The last time an NBA team had a player score 30 points in a triple-double while three of his teammates scored at least 20 points in a non-overtime game was on January 15, 1991 when the Trail Blazers did it in a 132-117 win at Minnesota. Clyde Drexler had the 30-point triple-double while Mark Bryant, Jerome Kersey and Terry Porter all scored at least 20 points.
* Steve Novak came off the Knicks’ bench to nail eight three-pointers and J.R. Smith followed him with seven treys off the bench in the Knicks’ win over the Celtics Tuesday night. It was the fourth time in NBA history that a pair of teammates each hit at least seven treys in the same game but the first in which both players came off the bench to do it.
* Arron Afflalo had 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field and his back-court mate Ty Lawson chipped in with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting in the Nuggets’ victory over the Rockets in Houston on Monday night. It was the first time in Denver’s NBA franchise history that each of their starting guards scored 25-or-more points and made at least 60 percent of their field-goal attempts in the same game.
* LeBron James scored Miami’s final 17 points in the team’s victory over the Nets on Monday night. James is the fourth player to score 17 straight points for his team in a game this season, joining Deron Williams (18 on March 4), Chris Paul (17 on February 22) and Mo Williams (17 on January 22). Prior to James, the last player to score his team’s final 17 points of a game was Denver’s J.R. Smith on April 13, 2009.