Postgame: Tyson Chandler
Mavs C Tyson Chandler weighs in on Thursday night's win over the Kings.
In the Twitter Age, seemingly every minute detail of every NBA game is up for debate among hundreds or even thousands of people. Every time a player takes a bad shot or commits some counter-intuitive basketball act, the Internet explodes. That player becomes a lightning rod, and before the Internet finally moves on, you’ve seen all you’ll ever want to know about that player.
The Mavs have plenty of players whose games have been dissected to no end this season, starting with point guard Rajon Rondo and closely followed by near-All-Star shooting guard Monta Ellis. Let’s not forget about Chandler Parsons, either: Is he worth his contract? Will he become the star we hope he’ll be? Heck, even Dirk Nowitzki has fought through prolonged stretches of shooting below his career standards, although he has certainly shot better in recent weeks. And the thing about Dirk is he’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer, a megastar in a league of superstars, one of the greatest players ever. Seriously, in this day and age no player is immune to criticism on a global scale. Yikes.
He’s as important as any guy we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of important players. He’s kind of the heartbeat of our team in a lot of ways.
– Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle
But the one player in a Mavs uniform who’s earned the admiration of just about everyone on Earth this season is man in the middle Tyson Chandler, the anchor of an improving defense and by all accounts the heart and soul of this team. Chandler is one of the best rebounders in the NBA and has put on one of the best interior defense performances most Mavericks fans have ever seen from a Dallas big man — and that includes the season he put together in 2010-11, when Dallas won the title. Chandler is averaging 10.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. The last time he secured as many boards per game came in 2007. He’s not only elevated his level of productivity, though: He’s been the one constant on a defense that’s been on the rise.
Toward the beginning of the season, when Jameer Nelson was the starting point guard, Chandler was frequently taxed to the limit on the defensive end. The Mavs simply struggled to defend pick-and-roll offenses, especially the good ones. Dallas ranked 20th in defensive efficiency through the first third of the season before dealing for Rajon Rondo who, in combination with Chandler, has elevated the Mavs defense all the way to 14th in the NBA and eighth since the trade.
The addition of Rondo not only shored up perimeter defense issues, but it also allowed Monta Ellis to play a more gamble-heavy style of defense, allowing him to jump passing lanes and swipe at the ball more often. With a player as sure as Rondo on the perimeter, you’re able to afford a few risky plays here and there. Fortunately, those two changes of style in tandem have made the Mavs one of the better three-point defenses in the NBA since the trade, even taking into account Steph Curry and the Warriors’ 19-of-38 performance Wednesday night.
But once players penetrate into the lane, the responsibility of the big man is still the same, no matter who’s in front of him. Chandler has faced the third-most field goal attempts per game at the rim this season, per SportVU, and has held opponents to 51.2 percent shooting at the rim, a solid mark for a player at his position, especially given the volume of attempts he’s faced. And that extends to his entire performance on the defensive end this season. Per Synergy Sports, Chandler has allowed just 0.765 points per possession on 618 possessions this season, which places him in the 87th percentile (60th place) in the league. But when you consider that no other player in the top 87 and only three in the top 155 have faced as many possessions as Chandler, his virtuosity truly becomes evident.
His hyper-efficiency is reflected on the offensive end, as well. He’s shooting 68.5 percent from the field this season, a career-best mark. Per Synergy, Chandler has scored 1.392 points per possession on 102 plays as the pick-and-roll big man this season, which places him in the 94th percentile in the league (12th overall). No one ahead of him on that list has played as many possessions and only one player in the top 45 has played more. So as good as he’s been defensively, he’s been just as remarkable on the offensive end.
In fact, of the five players in the league to average at least 10 points and 12 rebounds per game, Chandler has been worth more win shares this season than all of them, per Basketball-Reference.
Win shares is a stat which does occasionally tend to favor players on winning teams, which is why Cousins, one of the best players in the league, would be so far down the list. However, Chandler’s presence at both ends has absolutely transformed Dallas into the team it is today, one that’s just 1.5 games out of third place in a loaded Western Conference. And how has he responded without Rajon Rondo? He scored 21 points and grabbed 17 boards against the Warriors Wednesday night and followed that up with 16 points and 16 rebounds against Cousins and the Kings Thursday night. When Dallas needed production more than ever — and on a back-to-back — Chandler stepped up to the plate.
Don’t disregard his moxie, either. Even as Golden State pulled away Wednesday night, Chandler was still mean-mugging the world with every vicious dunk and forceful rebound he’d pull down. As wonderful as Monta Ellis has played in the clutch, and as masterful as Dirk Nowitzki remains in isolation, Chandler’s place on this team is just as important. If Rondo is the brain, Ellis is the legs, and Dirk is the arms, Chandler is the heart of this entire thing. The Mavs offense might operate like a sexy sports car, but underneath the hood, if you look closely, you’ll see Tyson Chandler churning away, working ridiculously hard to make every little thing that needs to happen happen. That’s why he’s universally loved, and there’s no player in the league who’s earned that love more than No. 6. As Mavs PA Sean Heath reminds us every home game, Chandler is back home now, and every night at the AAC there are 20,000 people thrilled to see him here.