Top 50: Tyson Chandler, no. 34

by Rodger Bohn / @rodgerbohn

For Tyson Chandler, things have not come quite as quickly as expected. The No. 2 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft spent time bouncing around to five teams before finding what appears to his ideal situation in New York. Still, he has already played for two coaches with the Knicks and has dealt with some internal turmoil. That didn’t phase Chandler, though.

Maintaining a sense of professionalism and calamity throughout an insane season in New York, Chandler was the team’s rock in the locker room. No matter what was going on with Linsanity, Melo or the coaching situation, Tyson was going to produce.

His averages of 11.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks may not jump off of the page at you, but they were enough to earn him Defensive Player of the Year honors. This award is the epitome of consistency, something that Chicago fans would have never imagined Tyson receiving a decade ago.

Profiled on 60 Minutes as an eighth grader, Tyson Chandler was a “sneaker kid” before they even existed. So-Cal All-Stars coach Pat Barrett (subject of the outstanding book Play Their Hearts Out) made Chandler Nike’s poster child and he was a well-known commodity coast-to-coast before ever playing a high school game.

Four years at powerhouse Compton Dominguez and Chandler was ready for the NBA Draft. In fact, Chandler was so ready for the League coming out of high school that he wasn’t seriously recruited by any major college programs, despite being arguably the top payer in the country.

Given his combination of size, agility and raw talent, some donned Chandler as the best big man since Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Tyson opted to not participate in the 2001 McDonald’s All-American Game because it could potentially damage his Draft stock and ultimately wound up being picked second overall in the Draft and became (with Eddy Curry) a part of the “Baby Bulls.”

Four up and down seasons in Chicago were filled with flashes of brilliance, spurts of immaturity and a ton of losses. A trade to New Orleans followed, where he and Chris Paul formed the initial version of “Lob City.” Then, for some unbeknownst reason, the Hornets decided to deal Chandler to the Bobcats for Emeka Okafor, who had an even worse contract. An older, wiser Chandler helped lead the lowly Bobcats to the Playoffs in ‘09-10 only to be dealt to the Mavs in the offseason as part of a salary dump. A Championship ring later and Chandler received a four-year, $58 million deal from the Knicks.

While the Knicks were knocked out in the first round of the Playoffs last year by the eventual NBA Champs, the impact that Chandler had was invaluable. Many questioned giving $58 million to a guy who had constantly battled injury issues and had only scored more than 10 points per game twice in his 10 years in the League. What Chandler brought to the Knicks was far more than you could ever expect to see in any box score and was worth every penny of the massive contract that they threw at him.

Having a defensive force like Chandler allowed the Knicks to funnel defenders into the paint, allowing their guards to play tighter defense on the ball and attempt to create more turnovers. Additionally, Chandler proved to be an outstanding help-side defender who would routinely rotate over to draw charges or at least intimidate opposing offensive players who were attacking the rim.

Offensively, Chandler was at his finest during the Linsanity era when he was able to run countless pick and rolls, diving to the basket reminiscent of his New Orleans’ days. Like on the defensive end, he was a constant threat as a roll man because any time that he got the ball going toward the rim it could result in two points. The fact that teams had to guard him made life easier on the perimeter when guys got the rock kicked out to them. Again, something that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet.

After a summer of winning Gold with Coach K in London, Chandler took some time off to get his body right for the start of the season. Injuries will be a concern for the remainder of his career, but for what it’s worth, he has done an outstanding job of building his body up (adding nearly 30 pounds since he’s been in the League) to handle the wear and tear that 82 games brings.

With a new cast of characters in New York, it will be interesting to see how everyone meshes, but the just-turned 30-year-old will serve as the team’s rock. Some have said that the $58 million that the Knicks spent on Chandler was the best money they’ve spent in the last decade and with the impact he’s had, it’s hard to argue with them.

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.