Basketball has once again taken center stage in New York as the Knicks are having their best season since 2001. The Knicks are only one game out of first place in the Eastern Conference and have assembled a deep and talented roster to surround star forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is averaging 29.4 points per game and could be having the best season of his career.
The value of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks is easily evident; he is the second leading scorer in the NBA and is virtually impossible for a defender to contain one-on-one. Anthony has now been in the NBA for nine years and has been an excellent player from day one. Despite Anthony’s talent, his teams in Denver were only able to get past the first round of the playoffs once during his tenure in the Mile High City. There are no recent NBA teams that have won a title with only one key player and the Nuggets with Carmelo Anthony were no exception.
In order for the Knicks to succeed in the postseason it will take more than great play from Carmelo Anthony. What New York Knicks player aside from Anthony is most important to the Knicks’ success this season? The next leading scorer on the Knicks roster, J.R. Smith has a case to be made. Smith is averaging 16.2 points per game and is certainly a big part of the Knicks’ success. His scoring and big shots have helped the Knicks win a number of games. However, he is not the most important Knicks player not named Carmelo Anthony.
In fact, the most important Knicks player besides Carmelo Anthony is starting center Tyson Chandler. Chandler is currently averaging 11.7 points to go with 10.7 rebounds per game.
Chandler may be fourth on the Knicks in points per game, but when he does shoot the ball he makes it count. Chandler’s field goal percentage is currently at .677 percent, best in the NBA by a large margin. Last year Chandler’s field goal percentage was at .679 percent, good for third best all time. NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain is the only player to shoot field goals at a higher percentage than Chandler did last season.
While averaging more points per game, Chandler’s teammates J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton are both shooting under 40 percent on the season. It’s not always about volume, it’s also about efficiency.
While Chandler’s numbers are very solid, there are no statistics that properly measure the intangibles that Chandler brings to the Knicks. Chandler sets a defensive tone each time the Knicks hit the court with his relentless hustle and effort. Chandler is also an enforcer around the basket. While Chandler is not a dirty player, he ensures there are no easy points for the opposing team in the paint if he is on the court.
Chandler’s defense allows the Knicks guards to play their opponents more aggressively knowing that he will protect the basket behind them. Tyson Chandler was rewarded for his efforts on defense last season as he was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. Chandler is also an emotional leader who holds his own teammates accountable and energizes his team along with the Madison Square Garden crowd. You don’t have to look far into the distant past to find evidence of the benefits of Chandler’s emotion and leadership.
The 2011 Dallas Mavericks were heading into the post-season as the third seed in the Western Conference but were never mentioned as a legitimate contender for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Many experts picked their first round opponent; the sixth seeded Portland Trailblazers to win the opening series of the playoffs.
The Mavericks not only won that series but defeated the Lakers, Thunder and the Miami Heat en-route to their first NBA championship. The Mavericks received superb play from former MVP Dirk Nowitzki but he had always played extremely well in the playoffs. The difference according to Dirk himself in the 2011 Mavericks and the previous Mavericks teams that fell short of the title was Tyson Chandler.
The Mavericks would have been unable to contain stars like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade during their title run without a superb defensive center protecting the basket. Dirk credited Chandler’s defense and rebounding while referring to Chandler as the heart of the Mavericks 2011 championship team.
Chandler has noticed many similarities in the current Knicks roster and the Mavericks team that won the title in 2011. The Knicks have the necessary star in place with Carmelo Anthony and a number of hungry veterans that all fill specific roles. Carmelo Anthony cannot do it alone and if the Knicks are able to accomplish their goal of winning a championship, Tyson Chandler will once again have a lot to do with it.
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