Tyson Chandler to the Knicks
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the Chris Paul/Lakers/David Stern trade veto fiasco is the impending signing of free-agent center Tyson Chandler by the New York Knicks. Like most of coach Mike D’Antoni’s previous squads, anyone who watched the Knicks play last year saw a team that was woefully inefficient protecting the paint and on the glass. Bringing in the defensive minded Chandler will instantly correct some of these deficiencies and alter the mindset and the culture of squad known primarily for their high-scoring/finesse play on the offensive end.
Chris Paul, the Hornets supremely talented point guard and close friend of Knicks superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, made it known that he eventually wanted to join his pals and play in New York. While obtaining the dynamic Paul to run the show in New York would’ve given them a “Big 3” that rivaled the one assembled in Miami, it quickly became apparent that the Knicks lacked the trade assets necessary to consummate a trade with New Orleans for his services (having jettisoned most of their trading chips to Denver for Melo last year). The Knicks moved on from Paul to Chandler in order to fill their glaring hole at the center position, as Ronny Turiaf and the boys just weren’t cutting it.
In terms of his skills on offense, by no means will Chandler remind Knicks fans of Willis Reed or Patrick Ewing. Entering his 11th NBA season, Chandler’s career average of 8.3 points per game isn’t overly impressive. He accumulates a majority of his points on dunks and put-backs, and at that this stage of his career this is pretty much who is he going to be. Statistically speaking, the two best scoring seasons Chandler’s had have come while playing with top-tier point guards (Chris Paul in New Orleans, 2007-2008 season and Jason Kidd with Dallas last year). Though the Knicks current collection of point guards are below the level of Paul and Kidd in terms of their passing ability, given D’Antoni’s system and the way Chandler runs the floor he should have plenty of opportunities to contribute.
Chandler is expected to step in and make an immediate impact for the Knicks with his defense, rebounding, and shot-blocking ability. Last year they were a team that was undersized, forced to use Amare in the pivot for various stretches each game. I recall too many occasions where he was forced to guard the likes of Dwight Howard, and over the course of the year it was clear that Stoudemire was wearing down. Having Chandler on the roster allows him to slide back to his natural power-forward position, where his skill and athleticism make him a difficult matchup for opponents.
The signing of Chandler should also bring a certain edge to the Knicks that they have been seriously lacking for years (I still long for the days of Mason/Oakley). When he arrived in Dallas last year, he was coming to a team infamous for their postseason failures, a team thought of as soft and wary of physical play, unable to handle themselves when situations got tough. While the outstanding play of Dirk Nowitzki throughout the playoffs receives a majority of the credit for the Mavericks finally winning a championship, the presence and impact of Chandler cannot be discounted. He set the tone and made it clear that the Mavericks wouldn’t be bullied around anymore, and his physical play in the middle inspired his historically finesse teammates to step it up on defense.
If there was ever a team in need of a similar makeover it is the Knicks. In Anthony and Stoudemire, the Knicks have two of the most talented players in the entire NBA. They are dynamic players who can seemingly score at will, but on the defensive side of the ball they (and the rest of the team) are as soft as tissue paper. I hope Chandler can change the tenor of the team, as until they buy in and make a commitment to play harder on defense they will be a unit that is fun to watch but not a true championship contender. At the very least Chandler should catapult the Knicks into one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, and I believe if they had him a season ago they would’ve bounced the aging Celtics right out of the playoffs.
All things considered this was a great move by the Knicks, as they addressed a need and got one of the top free-agent centers available. At twenty-nine years of age, Chandler still has plenty of good years ahead of him and should give the Melo/Amare Knicks a 4-5 year window to win a championship. The jury is still out on whether or not a Mike D’Antoni coached team can ever become fundamentally strong enough on the defensive end of the court to win a championship, and if significant improvements aren’t made in this area with Chandler in the fold you can be sure changes will be made.Follow us on Twitter:@PACsSports