The Phoenix Suns signed a Robin in the hopes of luring a Batman, but of course the Evil Empire struck again.
It's time for the Suns faithful to accept that Dark Helmet was right and pick up the pieces of their shattered souls once again. There are still plenty of reasons to look forward to the 2015/16 season -- the development of exciting youngsters Alex Len, T.J. Warren, Archie Goodwin and now Devin Booker, for one -- and while the Suns have a LaMarcus Aldridge-shaped hole at the power forward position were only Markieff Morris resides (and he may or may not be severely disgruntled after his twin brother was shed from the roster), they suddenly possess an intimidating tandem at center.
The Suns signed veteran center Tyson Chandler to a 4 year, $52 million contract partly in hopes of landing the Titan of 20-Footers, and despite coming up otherwise empty in free agency the Suns and Chandler have joined forces and will make another push towards the playoffs.
Chandler is known far and wide for his brand of boards, defense and dunks, and was the missing piece to the championship puzzle for Dallas back in 2011. But is his impact all that it's cracked up to be? Read on for a chronicling of the legacy of Tyson Chandler -- with stats!
Chicago: The Early Years
Chandler entered the 2001 NBA Draft straight out of Dominguez High School in Compton, CA -- the same stomping grounds as former Suns Dennis Johnson and Cedric Ceballos. The Clippers picked him second overall -- behind fellow prep-to-pro prospect Kwame Brown -- and immediately flipped him to the Bulls in a stunning trade for rising star Elton Brand.
The Bulls then paired Chandler with yet another prep-to-pro prospect, Eddy Curry, whom they selected 4th.
It was quite clear early on what kind of player Tyson Chandler would become. Even as an extremely young player receiving substantial minutes on a rebuilding team, he contributed right away.
Note the difference in eFG% when Chandler would sit. Not exactly an eye-popping disparity, but bear in mind he had just graduated high school a short time earlier.
However, his improvement wasn't as salient as many had hoped in the following years, and by his last season in Chicago his defensive impact had stalled.
The Bulls were an up-and-coming team with a young core of Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. They were ready to add some veteran help to push them over the hump and signed reigning Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, to a free agent contract. This made Chandler, whom many in the Bulls organization were growing increasingly impatient with, expendable.
New Orleans: Lobs, Boards and Defense
Chandler's career in New Orleans technically didn't even begin in New Orleans. Displaced by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, the Hornets were temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City, and Chandler was given the full-time starting job from day one.
While his scoring production was still modest at best, his efficiency greatly improved as he shot 62.4% from the field in 2006/07.
He led the NBA in TRB% that season at 20.7, and once the Hornets returned home to New Orleans they were a playoff team in the West. He also formed a vicious alley-oop connection with young phenom point guard Chris Paul.
Chandler's impact in the 2008 playoffs foreshadowed his career arc, as his presence on the court dramatically improved the Hornets' defense.
Check that difference in Opponents' ORtg.
In the Western Semifinals against the Spurs, he held Tim Duncan to 15.3 PPG on 42.1% shooting -- obviously far below Zombie Tim's usual production. However, Spaceball One did what they do best, breaking the hearts of everyone in New Orleans by coming back from a 0-2 deficit to win the series in 7.
Injuries struck Chandler during the following season and he was traded to the Bobcats for Emeka Okafor.
Charlotte: More Injuries
Chandler battled through a stress fracture in his left foot during the 2009/10 season, limiting him to only 51 games. Despite this, the Bobcats managed to qualify for postseason play for the first time in franchise history, where Chandler again made it glaringly obvious how important an elite defensive center is in the playoffs.
While the Magic were able to sweep away the Bobcats in 4 games, their ORtg plummeted by 14.3 when Chandler was on the floor, and he held a prime Dwight Howard to only 9.8 PPG in the series on 48.1% shooting -- down from 18.3 PPG on 61.2% shooting in the regular season.
Dallas: NBA Champs
The Bobcats decided to trade Chandler, who had only played in 96 regular season games in the prior two seasons, to Dallas for Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera. For Charlotte, it was only a matter of grabbing a couple assets for the trouble of swapping the expiring contracts of Chandler and Dampier.
For Dallas, they were trying to find the perfect frontcourt mate for Dirk Nowitzki to push them over the hump.
They found exactly that in Chandler.
While he couldn't produce quite as many highlight plays as he did during his time in New Orleans, he was older, smarter, and had the veteran chops to lead a championship defense. He also feasted on easy buckets while playing next Nowitzki, leading to positive impact on both sides of the court when he was in the game.
His maturation as an NBA center was complete.
The Mavericks stormed through the playoffs with Chandler serving as the fulcrum on defense that they always had lacked with Dampier, as opponents suffered a drop of -9.6 in ORtg over the course of 21 playoff games, culminating in the NBA Championship coming to Dallas.
New York: The legend grows, then falters
The Knicks stepped up to the plate in free agency, bringing Chandler to New York for 4 years, $56 million.
He promptly posted what was arguably the best individual season of his career in 2011/12, both winning the Defensive Player of the Year award and leading the league in field goal percentage at 67.9%.
Ironically, the Knicks' offense improved more than their defense when Chandler was on the court.
Adding to theory that Chandler's impact might be just as palpable on offense, the Mavericks dropped from 8th in the league in ORtg (109.7) in 2010/11 all the way to 22nd in the league (103.3) in 2011/12. Their DRtg, conversely, actually improved from 105.0 to 102.3 when Chandler was essentially replaced with a platoon of Brendan Haywood, Brandan Wright and Ian Mahinmi.
As for the Knicks, their DRtg improved from 110.1 to a stellar 101.0 after signing Chandler -- which likely all but sealed up his DPOY award.
However, it should be noted that there was a massive shift in organizational philosophy during this time, exemplified by replacing offensive-minded Mike D'Antoni with defensive-minded Mike Woodson at head coach. But considering that the only player besides Chandler on the 2011/12 Knicks that could even remotely be considered a plus defender was rookie Iman Shumpert, I think we can give Tyson his due here.
The Knicks were put away in 5 games by Miami, and the numbers again show a greater impact on offense than defense when Chandler was on the floor.
Chandler achieved his lone All-Star game appearance the following season in 2012/13, despite the fact that his numbers tailed off a bit from the previous year (although he led the league in TS% for the third straight season). The Knicks' DRtg rose (in a bad way) to 106.3, but their offense exploded with Carmelo Anthony leading a small-ball lineup that basically featured Chandler plus any combination of wings and/or point guards.
The Knicks 54 games and a playoff series versus the Celtics, but the cart tipped over after that.
The 2013/14 New York Knicks season was a disaster on such a remarkable level, the only apt comparison that comes to mind is if the Fukushima meltdown was directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It started with Chandler fracturing his fibula a week into 2013/14 the season, and by the time he returned the village was on fire and the children were carrying automatic weapons.
There were widespread claims that Chandler had quit on the team on any number of occasions, but -- and I rarely would say something like this -- who can blame him? Not once ... but TWICE ... he snagged an offensive rebound to secure a win, only for a teammate to inexplicably fire a three with the shotclock turned off.
There really is no use in furthering any discussion on this season. Let's just move on.
Dallas: A Revival
Chandler was traded back to Dallas for the 2014/15 season, where he quickly went to work at restoring his reputation. His numbers improved across the board and he posted the highest PER (20.1) and TRB% (20.7) of his 14-year career.
With Chandler the Mavs were able to improve their DRtg slightly (108.7 to 106.4), but he again found himself at ground zero of an organizational meltdown as the wheels came off on their season after trading for Rajon Rondo.
Impact on the Suns
Might the Suns become a top ten defensive team with Tyson Chandler? In 2014/15 they posted a DRtg of 106.2 -- ranking 17th in the league. When looking at the roster of the 2011/12 Knicks that posted a DRtg of 101.0 with Chandler -- and being otherwise devoid of defensive stoppers -- it's certainly fathomable.
However, it might be on the offensive end that Chandler's impact is felt the most. While much is made in Phoenix of the importance of having a floor-stretching big that draws defenders out of the paint, Chandler's elite ability at diving to the rim provides an inverse effect, drawing defenders inside and thus away from the perimeter.
Since the 2010/11 season, Chandler has been on three teams that were top ten in 3FG%. While it's unclear exactly how much of that can be attributed to his presence in the paint, the Suns need all the help that can get in this regard.
He will surely talk about defense first once he officially makes Phoenix his home, but he has potential to help this team in all areas of the game, not the least of which being the development of Alex Len.
But will the addition of Chandler by enough by itself to land the Suns a playoff appearance in 2016? Obviously that remains to be seen, but if he can hold the team together both on the court and in the locker room while improving the defense and opening up the offense with his finishing ability, don't be surprised.