I was wrong about Tyson Chandler. He was everything I thought he was, but also much more for the Knicks this season. During a schizophrenic year that saw the arrival of Jeremy Lin, the dismissal of head coach Mike D’Antoni, injuries for Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony as well as philosophical differences about the offense, Tyson was a consistent rock in the middle. Never-more-so than on the defensive end.
He avoided injury—no small order in this season where teams played 66 games in 120 days—but he also helped the Knicks dismal defense go from 21st in the league in defensive efficiency, to 5th. You read that right.
Here’s the Knicks defensive efficiency last season as a team. Good for 21st in the league.
And here they are this year, in the 5th spot.
And what, really, was different about this year’s team that could account for the discrepancy? It’s probably 95% Tyson Chandler, and 5% Mike Woodson, who was added (at the suggestion of management) to D’Antoni’s staff this offseason as a defensive assistant coach.
You can probably make a case for Kevin Garnett—or if you’re feeling frisky Andre Iguodala and/or Tony Allen— as DPOY, but my pick is Chandler because he’s been doing it all year.
His stats don’t jump out at you, but if you watched the Knicks at any point this season, you’d see Chandler hunkered down on the block, or beyond the arc as he jumped out on screen and rolls. He was always directing traffic, calling out picks and generally bringing his defensive championship pedigree to a Knicks team in desperate need of a defensive identity. The Knicks had two superstars known to slack on the defensive end of the floor. Tyson had the talent, the youth (he’s only 29) and the moxy to stand up to Melo and Stoudemire and motivate them to give a crap on the defensive end. He’s the primary reason (not Lin or Melo’s recent hot streak) the Knicks made the playoffs this year.
He’s also the Defensive Player of the Year for 2012.
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