On Wednesday, the New York Knicks returned star center and former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. Chandler played 37 minutes, posting nine points, nine rebounds, five offensive boards, three blocks and one steal as the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 107-101 in double overtime.
The question is, what is the true impact of Chandler’s return to the Knicks?
Chandler has been one of the most valuable players in the NBA over the past half-decade. He’s played a pivotal role in revitalization of the Knicks as an organization and was the defensive anchor of the the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
He’s gone from the No. 2 overall draft choice in 2001 with minimal instant gratification to the definition of a defensive anchor. Now, he’s going to reprise a role that he’s grown familiar with: that of a savior.
Chandler’s return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Knicks.
Chandler suffered a fractured right fibula on Nov. 5 against the Charlotte Bobcats. He missed 20 games. In that time, the Knicks went 6-14. It goes without saying that Chandler was sorely missed.
Entering Wednesday, the Knicks were eighth in scoring defense with an average of 97.9 points allowed per game. Before fans get too excited, the Knicks also ranked 26th in opponent field goal percentage.
The pace of games has been more significant to New York’s defensive statistical success than the overall quality of play.
Furthermore, the Knicks currently rank No. 29 in total rebounding and No. 18 in offensive rebounds per game. The Knicks also rank 27th by allowing opponents to shoot 62.1 percent on shots from less than five feet away, per NBA.com.
That level of inefficiency as a rim-protecting unit is a primary reason for New York’s current record of 8-17. Chandler’s return changes everything.
Since joining the Knicks, Chandler has averaged 10.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.8 offensive boards and 1.3 blocks in 132 games. His contributions in the latter three categories have been unmatched by any player on the roster and that’s why the Knicks have been in such a rut without him.
Aside from contributing excellent rebounding work on both ends, Chandler is the rim protector that New York needs.
Opponents are scoring on 47.9 percent of plays in which they meet Andrea Bargnani at the rim. This isn’t an attempt at picking on Bargnani’s suspect defense, but instead an acknowledgement of the facts.
Bargnani was Chandler’s replacement at center while the All-Star was injured. Center happens to be a position that is most commonly associated with protecting the rim.
Albeit with a limited sample size, Chandler was holding opponents to 40.5 percent shooting in those same scenarios before suffering an injury.
What Chandler does for the Knicks is force opponents to rely heavily on low-efficiency field goal attempts. His presence leads to slashers pulling up for mid-range jump shots and a less significant scoring output from interior players.
Most importantly, he impacts the Knicks’ overall level of play.
During the 2012-13 regular season, the Knicks averaged 101.7 points scored and 95.2 points allowed per 48 minutes. When Chandler was off the floor, the Knicks averaged 95.5 points for and 96.0 points against per 48.
Furthermore, the Knicks posted a net rating of positive-7.4 when Chandler was on the floor and negative-0.8 when he was on the bench. That’s a stunning difference of 8.2 points, which is often what separates wins from losses.
Thus, the answer here is simple: what Chandler brings to this team is a blend of defensive prowess, positive offensive impact and clear energy.