When it comes to Tyson Chandler, his reputation is often thought of as a great defensive player and limited offensive player. This concept mainly exists because his shot chart looks like this:
Out of Chandler's 440 shots last season, 205 were dunks (.465), 120 lay-ups (.272) and 58 tip-ins (.131), which accounted for 87% of his attempts. To simply limit what he does because of this shot selection undervalues the complexity and variety to his offensive repertoire.
What the former second-overall pick has accomplished these past five seasons with the Dallas Mavericks (two years) and New York Knicks (three years) is become one of the most valuable offensive players in the league. In four of the five seasons he has compiled the highest offensive rating in the league, coming in at 130 or higher, and the season he didn't it was at lowly (sarcasm font) 120.
Here's a look at how Chandler impacted the game using on/off court numbers for offensive rating, three point attempts, three-point percentage and offensive rebounding during this time frame:
A little less impact than I was expecting putting the numbers together. A couple key points to remember: In 12-13 he was mainly replaced by Kenyon Martin and the Knicks kept humming, while the Mavericks second unit in 14-15 with Brandon Wright lit the world on fire before he was traded. The statistics were hurt by 11-12 when New York played a good chunk of their season with Toney Douglas, a 75-year-old Baron Davis and a 92-year-old Mike Bibby as its point guards outside of the short Jeremy Lin stretch. This is a great example of understanding context in conjunction with using stats. The above chart doesn't do justice to Chandler's impact.
PG play and surrounding Chandler with shooting is a must to maximize his ability in the PnR. The Suns have the guards to execute from a dribble penetration perspective, but there's question marks around the shooting. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Phoenix's big men averaged 1.00 per possession diving out of the pick and roll in 2014-2015 (ranked 10th), but the play type happened the fourth least in the league (5.4% of the time).
In Dallas last season, Chandler averaged 1.41 points per possessions as the roll man (21.5% frequency). That placed him in the 97.7 percentile. Tyson is the Suns best PnR big since Amar'e Stoudemire was donning the purple and orange.
This is about as simple of a two-man game between Chandler and Monta Ellis as you can get. They take advantage of the slow footed Jonas Valanciunas, who tries to cut off Monta's driving angle, and doesn't have the speed to recover when Ellis hits Tyson in stride for the easy dunk.
If this simplistic type play was all Chandler was capable of doing he wouldn't be nearly the offensive threat he is. He's able to hurt you in a variety fashions with one of his biggest weapons being able to finish lob passes.
The quickness, short area burst and ability to dunk in traffic are requisite skills to be as efficient as Chandler in this style of play. He's able to go up and slam the lob in a tight space between three defenders collapsing on him. A reference used in football when discussing wide receivers is catch radius. The term describes the area in which a pass catcher can get the ball. The longer arms, ability to read the path of the ball and hands to bring it in all help players have a better catch radius. If Chandler was playing football a large catch radius would be the perfect description for what he can do.
Sticking with the football analogies -- playing quarterback is an easier job for Matthew Stafford because he has Calvin Johnson. There can be a defender or sometimes more draped all over Johnson and Stafford can get away throwing the ball in his vicinity without hesitation. This is what it's going to be like for Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. Put it up near the rim and Chandler is going to figure out a way to finish.
There are other bigs who have this type of ability. JaVale McGee is tall, long and a hell of a dunker, but what separates Chandler is the mental aspect of the game. He can read what's going on around him and make adjustments based on what he sees on the fly.
Chandler is getting ready to go set an on ball screen for J.J. Barea on the wing. He picks up on the miscommunication between Robert Covington and Nerlens Noel, aborts plan A, cuts towards the basket and ends up with a monster slam between two defenders.
On this play he sets up Derrick Favors like a WR making a double move in football.
Chandler got Favors to be slightly flat footed as he fakes like he was going to set a screen on Trey Burke. When he used his quick twitch athleticism to dart towards the rim, Favor's foot work was slightly off because he was standing too straight up and was too stiff in the hips as he had to quickly change directions. This was also another alley-oop finished between three Jazz defenders.
This is a second example of not having to make contact on a screen to be effective.
The initial PnR is thwarted by the Hornets defense. Chandler doesn't get flustered and immediately kicks it right back out to Devin Harris. He then looks like he's going to run the same exact PnR again, but sees Al Jefferson go too far to cut off the threat of the dribble penetration by Harris. Instead of setting a solid screen, Chandler slips, catches a pocket pass in traffic and is able to finish strongly at the rim.
The offshoot of what Chandler brings in these plays might be just as important as the actual PnR himself. In three of the last five seasons teams that Chandler were on shot over 3% better from the three-point line with him on the court. This is because of the attention him diving towards the rim brings to perimeter defenders.
First, lets be clear, this is more about a defensive mistake than anything Chandler does. Rookie guard Rodney Hood leaves Devin Harris in the corner for no reason. 1) Chandler isn't even diving to the rim with all that much force. 2) Favors is in good position and doesn't need any help pinching in from the side. That being said, this shows how much of a threat Chandler is. Yes, it's a rookie making an error, but part of that is because of Chandler's reputation.
This is a more succinct example of how Chandler can create open three-point looks.
Look at the Celtics two weak side defenders -- Avery Bradley ignores Jameer Nelson in the corner to clog the paint and Kelly Olynyk leaves Dirk Nowitzki to try to chuck Chandler on his dive. The attention opens up a simple one off pass from Ellis to Nowitzki, who smoothly knocks down the three on Olynyk's late closeout. That is all able to happen because of the threat of Chandler diving to the rim.
The last aspect left that the Suns new center shines in is on the offensive boards. Over the past five seasons Tyson's teams have a offensive rebound % higher by 1.5% when he is on the court. Whenever there is dribble penetration he has the capability for an easy putback.
If Chandler doesn't receive the pass out of the PnR his work isn't yet done either.
The Mavs run a hybrid PnR/handoff with Chandler and Monta Ellis as shot clock winds down. Chandler is able to create enough space between Ellis and John Wall that Marcin Gortat has to slide over to cut off paint. Because of where Gortat slides over to, Chandler is able to obtain leverage and position on Washington's big man as he heads towards the rim. Chandler not only obtains inside position, but he also gets lower and knocks Gortat off his spot leading to grabbing the rebound and an easy dunk.
The final clip of the story is my favorite Chandler play off all. Suns fans, welcome to your introduction to the "Tyson tip-back."
These situations are a gold mine for easy second chance points. Chandler is surrounded by four Spurs defenders yet is still able to get the ball out to one of his teammates with a controlled swat. That puts San Antonio in scramble mode and after two passes leads to a wide open mid-range jumper Ellis knocks down in rhythm. This is something you will see on regular basis.
Trying to figure out whether the Suns have the correct personnel bring out the best in Chandler's talents is an interesting debate. I think the starting five of Knight, Bledsoe, Tucker, Morris and Chandler has plenty of shot creation, dribble penetration and maybe just enough shooting to make it all work.
Bledsoe getting back to the .357 he was from behind the arc in 13-14 from the .324 last year would be a big help. Knight is a career.365 shooter from deep and Tucker is at worst league-average from the corners. Morris doesn't shoot the greatest percentage (33% career), but his willingness to take threes can at times be just as important as making them in a weird way.
You can see how this five can reasonably simulate the style of play the Suns were using two years ago when they had more success. Chandler can be Miles Plumlee on steroids, but Morris and Knight don't fit as perfectly with the group as Channing Frye and Goran Dragic did.
The NBA has slowly gone away from your prototypical big shifting to the need for more mobility and athleticism. Chandler's last two teams were able to leverage his skills into great offensive success and there's no reason the Suns won't be able to do the same.
All stats in this story are from NBA.com or basketball-reference.com unless otherwise referenced.