Dallas on Wednesday reacquired former Maverick Tyson Chandler from the New York Knicks, along with point guard Raymond Felton.
During Chandler’s first and only season with the Mavericks in 2010-11, he anchored the defense of the NBA champions. You know the names that Chandler helped to slow down: LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Of course, Chandler was valuable to that title team for more reasons than just those pertaining to his on-court play. The big man was a vocal leader in the locker room, a favorite of Dirk Nowitzki’s, and a favorite of just about every Mavericks fan. We were all sad to see him go following that magical run to the title.
But he’s back now.
The Knicks’ asking price for the center was understandably high. At his best, Chandler is one of the premier defensive players in the NBA — he won the Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2011-12 season. To bring him back, Dallas had to part ways with starters Jose Calderon and Sam Dalembert, as well as last year’s first-rounder Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, and the team’s two second-round picks in Thursday’s draft.
Even considering what the Mavs traded away for Chandler, it’s important to keep in mind that heading into the postseason adding a starting-caliber center was near or at the top of Dallas’s to-do list. Dalembert enjoyed stretches of excellent play last season, but Chandler, who has one year and roughly $15 million left on his contract he inked with the Knicks in 2011, is the better player. And not only did the Mavs upgrade at the center spot, but they also did it without dramatically affecting their available salary cap space heading into free agency, which begins next week on July 1.
The combined salaries of the four players Dallas traded and what the team would have paid the two players selected at spots 34 and 51 in the draft add up to more than $16 million. Chandler’s contract combined with Felton’s totals approximately $19 million. In NBA terms, $3 million is a small price to pay for a player like Chandler, who at his best can be a dominant force on the defensive end — Tyson finished top-eight in win shares per 48 minutes each season from 2010-13. Felton, as well, can play a valuable role either in the starting lineup or as a backup at the point guard spot.
You can bet that Chandler’s old running mate Nowitzki is as excited about the deal as anyone else, even Skin Wade, whose reaction is a pretty good representation of every Mavs fan’s.
EFFFING MASSIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Damn! Tyson coming back….
— Jeff Wade (@SkinWade) June 25, 2014
Nowitzki has longed to play next to a big man as effective as Chandler ever since he left the team following the 2011 season. Well, instead of signing a big man like Chandler, how about bringing him back instead? Before free agency has even started, Dallas has already addressed perhaps its most pressing need without significantly affecting cap space. That’s sure to make That Dude a very, very happy dude. Let’s not forget about Monta Ellis, either, who has a new toy to play with in the Mavs’ pick-and-roll offense. Ellis is at his best going downhill toward the rim with the option of passing to a rolling big man, and Chandler not only has the ability to set quality screens, but he also makes himself a target going to the hole. He has great hands for a player his size, as well.
The one knock against Chandler is concern regarding his health, as the center missed 27 games last season due to injury. But during his time in Dallas, Chandler never struggled through serious injury. He and Mavs head trainer Casey Smith have worked together before, both with the Mavericks and also with Team USA. If there’s one staff that can work with Chandler to avoid big health scares, it’s the Mavs’. Dallas can also add another big man in free agency to an already strong center rotation of Chandler and Brandan Wright if the Mavs see the need, as both Bernard James and DeJuan Blair are free agents. Retaining cap flexibility even when acquiring players with significant cap figures is a luxury that will serve Dallas well in multiple areas during the rest of the summer.
The Mavericks accomplished everything you’d hope a team could when pulling off a deal involving many pieces. Dallas added the rim-protecting center it needed desperately — who also happens to be a fan favorite — and a solid point guard who can either start or come off the bench, all while staying well under the salary cap. Now the Mavs can turn their attention to filling their other needs, which include backcourt depth and a perimeter defender. A Dirk/Monta/Tyson trio is as compatible and appealing as there is in basketball right now, which surely will make Dallas a desirable landing spot for some of the best free agents in the coming weeks. And unlike many other teams, Dallas already has the money and personnel to work with. Strong pieces are already in place at multiple positions. Now it’s time to add a few more.
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