Heading into his 19th NBA season, Tyson Chandler still has the skills to improve some areas of weakness for the Houston Rockets.
In a summer filled with superstars changing teams, big free agency signings and blockbuster deals, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey had as busy an offseason as anyone in the league. Just two days after completing the massive trade that sent Chris Paul to Oklahoma City in exchange for Russell Westbrook, Houston made another important move by signing veteran center Tyson Chandler to a one-year deal.
The 7-1 center has become somewhat of a journeyman in the league, spending time in Chicago, New Orleans, Charlotte, Dallas, New York, Phoenix, and most recently Los Angeles (as a Laker). In 2010-11, Chandler proved to be the factor that the Dallas Mavericks needed to get over the hump and win the NBA title. As a member of the Mavs, Tyson was a force on the glass on a team that previously struggled in that area. While Dirk Nowitzki was unstoppable in the playoffs that season, there’s a good chance they may have fallen short without some of the intangibles Tyson Chandler provided.
Now 36-years-old, Tyson Chandler will look to prove he can once again do the little things to push a championship contender over the top. As the backup center to Clint Capela, the California native will need to give the Houston Rockets efficient minutes when he finds himself on the floor. Given some of his natural abilities, Tyson could even find himself earning more minutes with H-Town by doing a few things well.
Next: No. 3
Tyson Chandler hasn’t made three NBA All-Defensive Teams and won an NBA Defensive Player of the Year award (2012) by mistake. 2011 to 2013 was when Chandler was at his best defensively, making two All-Defensive Second Teams and one All-Defensive First Team. While his first selection came with the Dallas Mavericks, the rest of his accolades came with the New York Knicks, proving he’s capable of shining defensively in different systems.
The key to Chandler’s effectiveness on the defensive end is a combination of his lateral quickness and size. Standing at seven feet one inch tall with a reported wingspan of 7-3, the fact that Tyson won the genetic lottery is just one part of the equation. Throughout his career, Chandler has been an excellent position defender. Tyson does a great job of staying in front of his man and getting a hand up, which is all you can ask for against the likes of such talented big men. While he spends most of his time in the paint area, he also does well in the help-defender position, which is often where he gets his blocked shots.
Mike D’Antoni will now rely on Tyson Chandler to do what he’s done his whole career on the defensive end. Already a small team, the big man will need to provide his full 85-plus inches of rim protection when Clint Capela is taking a breather. While his block average has gone down in recent years, his presence and ability to contest alone should help Houston force tough shots.
Next: No. 2
Efficiency on offense
The center position is generally where you will see some pretty high shooting percentages from the floor. It makes sense — many centers play in the paint, and usually the closer you are to the basket, the better you will shoot (unless you are Steph Curry or James Harden). Still, maintaining a field goal percentage of 59.6 percent over an 18-year career is no small feat.
In fact, Tyson has had nine separate seasons in which he finished shooting above 60 percent from the field, with the highest mark being 67.9 percent in 2012. At present, Chandler is currently third all-time in field goal percentage behind dunk machine DeAndre Jordan and Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore.
A major reason Chandler’s effectiveness around the hoop will be so important is the talent surrounding him. With a total threat like James Harden on the floor, it’s not a coincidence that starting center Clint Capela has averaged 63.5 percent shooting over his 5-year NBA career. Capela is often the beneficiary of drive-and-dishes, alley-oops and sneaky backdoor dunks resulting from The Beard’s penetration.
If Capela is currently the best at getting wide-open dunks, Tyson Chandler should be considered his predecessor. Tyson has made a career out of dunking the ball, whether it be off lobs, cuts or offensive putbacks. Chandler already would thrive in a system with a playmaker like Harden on the floor, but when you add assist-happy Russell Westbrook to the mix, Chandler could end up with another 60-plus percent shooting percentage at season’s end.
Next: No. 1
As anyone remotely familiar with the fundamentals of basketball will tell you, a defensive possession isn’t complete until your team gathers the rebound. Over his 18 seasons, Chandler has averaged 6.1 defensive rebounds per game, including two separate seasons averaging over eight per. His 3.1 offensive boards per game are also impressive and often lead to easy putbacks or layups for the high-percentage shooter.
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As we’ve covered before, the Houston Rockets were nearly dead-last in the NBA last season when it came to defensive rebounding. Much of this could be explained away by injuries, such as the one last season to the up-and-coming Danuel House, or lack of size after departures such as Trevor Ariza. Regardless of this, 29th in defensive rebounds is not acceptable for a championship contender.
The Houston Rockets will still be playing a lot of small-ball this season, and while Russell Westbrook is an exceptional rebounder, the team will still need all the help it can get.
As the tallest player on the roster, Chandler will have to be aggressive on the glass on both ends of the court. If he continues to do this as he’s done his whole career, D’Antoni will surely reward him with more minutes.
The door is open for Tyson Chandler to revive his career after a few injury-riddled seasons. In the best-case scenario, the veteran center will prove to be one of the missing pieces to help his team to a championship as he did in 2011.
There are minutes available for Tyson Chandler, he just has to jump up there and take them.