Reviews have been mixed on the Phoenix Suns summer moves, but one connection is beginning to stand out: Tyson Chandler was a great addition to any team.
According to this statistical projection by Kevin Pelton of ESPN, Chandler will have the 3rd biggest impact of all the free agents who changed teams this summer, behind only Greg Monroe and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Uh oh, statistical analysis again. We only agree with it if the results are favorable for the Suns, amiright?
This time, let's rejoice then. The two statistics Pelton uses are RPM, Real Plus-Minus, which is supposed to factor in offense AND defense, and WAR, Wins Above Replacement, which tries to measure a player's impact compared to a league average player.
These projections are even a major come down from Chandler's actual production last year in Dallas, where he posted a 4.58 RPM (17th in the league) and 9.99 WAR (21st in the league). By these measures, Eric Bledsoe was just ahead of Chandler in WAR (18th, with 10.38) and Markieff Morris was just behind (27th, with 9.49).
Because if you just ask the analysts, they think guys like Matt Barnes and rookie Justin Anderson will have a bigger impact than Chandler will.
How is that possible? Because analysts are considering a lot more factors outside of stats, and people just don't believe the Suns will be very good next year. With or without Chandler, no one is going to predict greatness from a team that not only doesn't have an All-Star but doesn't even have a dude projected to be an All-Star some day.
Any time I look around the league, I am reminded that the Suns front office has fallen short year after year finding a real All-Star to build around.
And that coach Jeff Hornacek and his band of merry men have somehow created more wins than losses in his two-year tenure managing a roster with no All-Star crutches to lean on, low BBall IQ players who have to play a lot of minutes and loads and loads of inexperience. Yet, they are 87-77 in two seasons.
So let's go back to these numbers. Chandler, Bledsoe and Keef all created about 10 more wins than an average replacement would have created last year (WAR). In each case, SOMEONE had to get credit for the wins on their team. That's how the numbers work.
Sure, you can have a 0-82 team and still have players with a positive WAR. But that 0-82 team would have to have just as many negative WARs to balance out to 0.
On the good side, Chandler, Keef and Bledsoe all get a lot credit for their team's records because their stats contributed more to wins than others on the team. But some of that is simply the minutes they played for a team that won games.
By comparison, Goran Dragic's WAR last year was only 3.6 between Phx and Miami because he was relegated so far down the usage ladder by the Suns. Isaiah Thomas had a 4.16 WAR between Phx and Boston. Dragic's WAR in 2013-14 was a whopping 9.73, while Channing Frye led the Suns with 10.83 WAR despite averaging just 11 points and 6 rebounds. Even an average Suns fans would attribute the Suns winning in 2013-14 to that successful Dragic/Frye combo. Bledsoe was a 5.79 WAR despite playing only half the year.
On the Suns last year, the player with the next best WAR behind Keef and Bledsoe was P.J. Tucker with 2.6 wins above replacement for the season. There's a good reason the Suns didn't win a lot in the second half after trading Dragic and Thomas, and suffering from Knight's injury.
On the Mavericks, Chandler far outpaced the next most impactful player on their team in terms of WAR. Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons added together just barely exceeded Chandler's 9.99 WAR. Interesting note: this offseason, Dallas lost its top two WAR producers (Chandler and Ellis) and third highest (Parsons) is dealing with knee issues. They did add Wesley Matthews, but he might miss a lot of time with his achilles problem.
What does this all mean?
For one thing, it means that Tyson Chandler was a good signing for the Suns in two ways. It's helps the Suns and hurts one of their rivals for a playoff spot. His WAR of 9.99 far out paces Alex Len's WAR of 1.59. Among centers, Chandler ranked 3rd in the league while Len was 29th. Both were starters. Yeah, that's probably a good upgrade for this next season.
But to expect Chandler, Bledsoe and Morris to each produce 10 WAR would be a bit much, explaining the projection of just 6.3 WAR for next season. If Morris is traded for a lesser player, Chandler's WAR might jump right back into the 10 range.