Like the Los Angeles Lakers’ start to the season, Tyson Chandler was in a rut.
The former NBA champion, and 18-year veteran, looked to be squandering the few remaining games left of his professional career on a team who had won just 21 games the season prior, and showed no indications things were getting better.
In Los Angeles, the LeBron James’ led Lakers also seemed in need of a spark.
After sputtering out of the gates, the team’s defense looked rough. Losers of five of their first seven games, their thin front court depth in concert with ineffective small lineups hurt the team’s ability to prevent the hemorrhaging of points.
Both parties seemingly needed each other, and like John Cusack in “Say Anything,” the Lakers’ front office stood outside James Jones’ window with a boombox raised over their head, seeking what they longed for.
Jones obliged and bought out the veteran big man. Chandler immediately signed with Los Angeles and made his Lakers debut on November 7th. Since then, the team has allowed only 103.1 points per 100 possessions, the third best mark in the league in the stretch.
What Has Changed?
Since joining the purple and gold, Chandler’s play has noticeably picked up compared to his effort level in Phoenix. While nowhere near his former Defensive Player of the Year self, Chandler still remains a solid defensive anchor in spurts.
As this site’s talent grades indicate, Chandler has seen a noticeable uptick this season compared to last, specially in a few key areas the Lakers had trouble in.
Before Chandler’s arrival, the team had struggled mightily in non-JaVale McGee minutes, specifically with protecting the rim and securing rebounds.
In those aforementioned lineups, the Lakers had a defensive rating of 118.7 and were allowing opponents to finish around the rim at a 67.7 percent clip according to Cleaning the Glass. With Chandler in tow, those once ailing back up minutes have been shored up exponentially.
With Chandler at center, the team has a stifling defensive rating of 97.7 and opponents are shooting only 56.7 percent at the rim. Of course with any lineup data, context matters. Playing primarily against bench units and lesser competition, numbers can be skewed.
Yet, looking at Chandler’s individual data, things remain just as impressive.
As of this article, Chandler has the fourth-best defensive real-plus-minus in the league among centers and is tied for 11th in D-PIPM.
As seen in Chandler’s dazzling Interior Defense grade (A) he continues to be a mountain of a man to budge on the block.
Chandler has done a sound job in the paint through his combination of a strong base and contesting without fouling.
Schematically wise, Chandler has also been able to show higher on screens than McGee has.
The team has benefited thus far from Chandler’s ability to hedge and contain ball handlers. While McGee continues to be an explosive rim protector, Chandler’s added overall technique has been a nice companion to the defense.
The other element Chandler has added to the team has been his timely rebounding.
As seen in his 94th percentile in Offensive Rebounding and 86th percentile in Defensive Rebounding, Chandler, 36, still has an able nose for the ball. For anyone who has seen Chandler play, he has mastered the “tap back.” A violent volleyball-esque pitch back to the perimeter that has become one of his trademarks.
Almost perfectly, Chandler has slotted in swimmingly in the team’s initial glaring areas of weakness.
At this current stage of his career it is unwise to expect him to start and give a team 30+ minutes a night with this level of production. Although, in this type of role, he has showed he can still be a valuable cog in a competitive environment.
Chandler’s staggering impact thus far has been something even the most optimistic Lakers’ fan could not have expected. Yet, for his new team, and his dawning days in the league, the two parties found each other at the exact right time.
Data and Video content courtesy of Cleaning the Glass and NBA.com
*This article also contained Data contribution from Ben Holz/ Featured image created by: @aidanlising.