Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
It’s pretty rare in today’s NBA to see two quality centers go head-to-head.
Due to the dearth of quality big men, you just don’t see the kind of center battles today that you saw in, let’s say, the mid-'90s. (Think Patrick Ewing-Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O'Neal-Alonzo Mourning).
But we were lucky the last time the Knicks and Nets squared off.
In the Knicks’ overtime loss at the Barclays Center, Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez went toe-to-toe for 53 minutes. And if you’re a fan of quality center play, it was fun to watch.
Chandler had 28 points on 12-for-13 shooting and 10 rebounds. Lopez had 20 points, 11 rebounds (seven offensive) and 5 blocks. And, most important, Lopez walked off the floor with the win.
That got us thinking: Who is the Most Valuable Center in New York City?
Maybe we’ll have a better idea after tonight’s Knicks-Nets game if Lopez, who is questionable with a foot injury, takes the floor.
Let’s take a look at the numbers so far:
CHANDLER: Chandler is averaging career highs in points per game, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, true shooting percentage (which factors in free throws and 3-pointers) and PER, a measure of a player's per-minute performance.
And don’t forget about his defense.
Here's one measure of Chandler's value on defense:
Per 48 minutes this season, the Knicks are outscoring opponents by 12 points with Chandler on the court. With him off the court, the Knicks are getting outscored by 0.3 points, per ESPN Stats & Information.
LOPEZ: If you want to know about Lopez’s value, look no further than the Nets’ past five games. With Lopez out due to a foot injury, the Nets are 1-4. They were 10-4 with him.
With Lopez out, the Nets gave up an average of 102.2 points per game. With Lopez, Brooklyn allowed an average of 90.7 points per game.
Another telling stat? The Nets’ points-per-game differential with Lopez is +4.9. Without Lopez, their points-per-game differential is -4.6.
Question: You’ve seen the numbers, so what do you think? Who’s the Most Valuable Center in NYC? Chandler or Lopez?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.