Player Pinpoint: Tyson Chandler

This column marks the beginning of a bi-monthly feature here on Eight Points, Nine Seconds.  Aptly entitled “Player Pinpoint”, it will take an in-depth look at a player of particular interest on a team the Indiana Pacers will play that day.  Tonight’s opponent is the Dallas Mavericks, and with the play of center Tyson Chandler drawing applause around the NBA, it’s important to take a closer look at his stellar play.

Throughout his career, Chandler has been known for his rebounding, and this year is no exception.  Although his average of 9.4 rebounds per game is apparently mediocre, it becomes quite impressive once it is converted to a per-48 minute basis, as he ranks eighth in the League in this metric.  It is also important to note Chandler’s ability to rebound on the offensive end of the court as well, as he ranks ninth in this category.  His propensity of “crashing the offensive boards”, as one would colloquially say, is of particular significant to the Mavericks, as they are in the top twenty percent of all NBA teams in shooting percentage.  When they receive more opportunities to shoot the basketball (due to Chandler’s offensive rebounding) it becomes even harder to prevent them from scoring on a given possession.

The defensive prowess of Chandler is also visible on a contra-opponent basis.  Indeed, over a 48-minute period, he out-rebounds the opposing team’s center 15.6 to 13.7, and also manages to block nearly one shot more than his respective counterpart.  In addition, Chandler’s quickness allows him to guard perimeter forwards and centers, giving the Mavericks a new defensive dimension.  In previous years, mobile centers on opposing teams would be able to take advantage of Chandler‘s predecessors at the center position (Erick Dampier and Desagana Diop) but with the addition of Chandler, this has been mitigated. Additionally, it is necessary to note here that although Chandler’s size (or lack thereof) may initially seem to put him at a disadvantage against larger pivot players, in reality, this does not seem to be as big of a problem as one would think.  Listed at 235 pounds, he is considerably less bulky than the centers that the Mavericks will face if, as anticipated, they advance deep into the playoffs.  In spite of this, however, in career head-to-head matchups against larger-than-life centers Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers, Chandler has in fact defended their post play quite nicely.  His play against Bynum, whom he will inevitably be matched up against in the playoffs, is quite encouraging in particular for the Mavericks:  In scores of career matchups, he has held the Laker center to just 8.5 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting, a considerable drop-off from his career-averages of 56.8 percent shooting to score 10.3 points per game**.

Chandler has also been praised for his role in the improved team Dallas defense, and the numbers do not dispute this assertion.  In terms of points allowed per possession, the two most commonly-used five-man units with him at the center position allow just .99 points per possession, a praiseworthy achievement.  When examining his play on an individual basis, the results are also positive:  At 1.01 points, Chandler is tied for second place on the Mavericks in points allowed per possession when he is on the court.  Overall, he leads his ballclub in defensive rating at 100.57 points per 100 possessions, an indicator of his impact on defense.  The specific ways in which Chandler affects the Dallas defense cannot, however, be gleaned simply by statistics alone, as he is neither an excellent shot-blocker nor particularly apt at stealing the ball.  Rather, his impact on the defense is a function of his good defensive positioning, a skill that cannot be quantified.  As Mavericks owner Mark Cuban commented in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “He’s so active, he moves so well, he communicates well, and he’s one of the guys that’s accountable on the court defensively”.

Chandler’s defense, however, is only half of his excellence.  His ability to positively impact the Dallas offense must also not be discounted.  In fact, his offensive rating is second only to star forward Dirk Nowitzki on the team.  Chandler’s ability to score the basketball may be factor in this impressive statistic:  Previous Dallas centers Diop and Dampier had very little offensive capabilities.  Chandler, however, who is known for his mobility and athleticism, can put the ball through the hoop in a number of ways, most notably through high-flying dunks.  In fact, twenty percent of his shots are dunks, and nearly all were assisted (For comparison, just eleven percent of Dwight Howard’s converted field goals were dunk shots).  Dunks, which are high percentage shots, are undeniably a beneficial shot.  Unlike many defensively-sound centers,  Chandler also has the ability to make jumpshots, giving him another offensive weapon.  Further, it is also prudent to note that although ability to score off of assists has been praised frequently, he is also capable of creating his own shot.  In a 2007 scouting report authored by Anthony Givony of DraftExpress.com, Chandler is described as having “some spins and quick jabs that let him use his length to his advantage“ and “has a decent right handed hook shot”.  At the same time, it must be kept in mind that the majority of Chandler’s offensive game is still dependent on others.  Says Givony: Chandler is “more of a catch and finish guy”, a claim which can be visualized statistically through his noticeably high percentage of assisted-upon field goals.

Overall, the addition of Chandler has been a major boon to the Dallas Mavericks.  By being able to defend while at the same time contributing on offense, Chandler has been able to give the Mavericks an unique element that they have not had for over a decade.  His ability to impact the game on both ends of the court is illustrated through his excellent net offense/defense rating, which is one of the best in the League, and is in fact better than such household names as Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer.  Only playoff success will tell, however, the true value-added of Chandler for the Mavericks, but for now, they are currently nestled in second place in the Western Conference, and that’s certainly something to celebrate.

**It must be mentioned that this this statistic can be misleading at time, as the head-to-head numbers were tabulated for Chandler and Bynum throughout the game, not just the periods of time in which they guarded each other.  Likewise, it does not account for double-teams and/or help defense.  These two qualifiers must be kept in mind when utilizing this statistic.

Jay Ganatra is a frequent contributor to 8 Points, 9 Seconds and is currently studying accounting at the University of Florida. You can reach Jay at [email protected].

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