The New York Knicks have gotten everything they expected after signing Tyson Chandler following a championship season in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks. Chandler has become the embodiment of what the city expects from it’s man in the middle. He is among the best defenders in the league and is probably the best at tipping out offensive rebounds for extra possessions. He doesn’t do anything flashy offensively, aside from the occasional pick & roll, alley-oop dunk, which always seems to make the highlight reel, but Chandler is consistently among the league leaders in field goal percentage.
All that being said, last year was considered a disappointment for Tyson Chandler on the court. Coming off a 2012 Defensive Player of the Year award, Chandler just never really seemed to be 100% healthy after his first initial injury in the middle of the season. He struggled with a bulging disk in his neck throughout the later portion of the season and it showed on the court. There is an injury that no one seems to be mentioning is the one that really brought down the Knicks in the playoffs.
Chandler was suffering from the flu during the Knicks second round series against the Indiana Pacers, which reportedly affected him so profoundly that he dropped somewhere between 12-15 pounds. This means that he weighed around 225 lbs, and when you’re playing against 7″2′, 260 lbs of Roy Hibbert, it’s not going to end well. The combination of Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin were abused in the post by Hibbert throughout the series. Hibbert does have some length on Chandler, but it was obvious that Chandler just wasn’t himself on the court and seemed worn down.
During the regular season, when healthy, Chandler did what he seemingly always does; played solid defense and rebounded the ball. He averaged 10.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game, including a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 18.88 (ranked 17th among centers). He always impacted the defensive side of the ball, the problem is aside from Chandler and Iman Shumpert, no one else on the Knicks team last season was known for their defensive prowess. This is no knock on Kenyon Martin, but Chandler needs some help in the middle in the form of a true center.
This off-season the Knicks have brought in big men Andrea Bargnani, who is a versatile 7-footer that can play power forward and center, and young journeyman power forward/center Jeremy Tyler, who suffered a foot injury this off-season which may delay his start to the season. The Knicks still have a roster spot open, which should be used on a true backup center like Earl Barron or Cole Aldrich. While those names might not jump off the screen for Knicks fans, it presents something that will without a doubt be needed in the 2013-2014 season, rest for Tyson Chandler. It will be very important for the Knicks to keep Chandler fresh for the 2014 playoffs where they will likely have to play the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers who all have formidable front lines.
Little has been said about Chandler this off-season given the myriad of questions and stories surrounding J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony. There has been talk of Mike Woodson talking about working with Tyson Chandler this off-season to work on a post game so that he can be better suited to play along side the aforementioned Anthony and Smith. What the Knicks desperately need is a presence on the interior offensively. It would be nice if the Knicks could get more from Chandler offensively, but at 30-years-old it’s hard to imagine him developing much of a post game unless it happens this off-season.
I believe Tyson Chandler bounces back to have another solid season. He will develop something of a post game, nothing that will make him a 15-20 point scorer, but just the threat of a hook will be enough to have an impact offensively for the Knicks. It will allow the Knicks to properly space the floor and take some pressure off Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. I fully expect the Knicks to be among the top scoring teams in the league again. If the Knicks can find continuity offensively they will have a shot to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference again.