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Friday, April 20, 2012
Tyson Chandler, Mr. Efficient

By Jared Zwerling

While Carmelo Anthony's April has been awesome -- he's averaged a league-high 32.2 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting -- Tyson Chandler's season has been overall awesome.

In fact, you could make the easy argument that not only has he been the Knicks' most consistent player, but also their most valuable because he's excelled on both ends of the court, helping the team maintain a winning record through all of their ups and downs.

And Chandler's been the catalyst while dealing with groin and left wrist injuries.

Earlier this month, I wrote that Chandler deserved to be Defensive Player of the Year, which ESPN.com's John Hollinger discussed more recently.

Offensively, if there was an award for most efficient player, Chandler would definitely be on the receiving end of that. Within his sweet spot, from the basket to an average of 2.4 feet out, he basically takes advantage of every touch. On the season, he's shooting nearly 70 percent from the field (68.1). How many players can say they've shot that well from their hot zone? In fact, only one player in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain) has two better single-season field goal percentages than Chandler. In 1972-73 with the Lakers, Chamberlain set a record with 72.7 percent. Previously in 1966-67 with the 76ers, he shot 68.3 percent.

Chandler has actually gotten better from closer range. In 2010-11 with the Mavericks, his average shot distance was 3.8 feet and he averaged 10.1 points per game. This season, at that 2.4 average, his scoring average is 11.4 points. Overall, his accuracy has made steady improvements throughout his career.

"[Tyson] does change the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told ESPNNewYork.com earlier in the season. "He has a great impact on the game on both ends of the court. Everybody knows about his defense and it's not because of his shot-blocking; it's because of his IQ and his toughness. He reads situations, he communicates what you're doing as you're doing it.

"He's an anchor for that defense, he's always there to help and he's a terrific rebounder in traffic. Offensively, he's one of the very best pick-and-roll guys to the rim, where he collapses your defense if you don't put bodies in front of him, and he has those lob dunks."

Here's a deeper dive into how Chandler's been so efficient for the Knicks (thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and NBA.com's statistical support for assisting with ESPN New York's research request):

1. His shooting percentage within the restricted area is a superb 72.6 this season (72.0 in 2010-11). But the difference is that last season, 4.3 of his 5.5 field goal attempts per game were within the restricted area. This season, 5.2 of his 5.8 field goal attempts per game are within the restricted area. Basically, he’s taking and making shots right around the rim.

2. He's been most effective in three areas this season: 1) as the roll man in pick-and-roll situations; 2) cutting to the basket; and 3) in transition.

Chandler Most Points By Play Type

Points | Points Per Play* | Points Per Play Rank**

Pick-and-roll man -- 226 | 1.24 | 4th of 70
Cutting to the basket -- 136 | 1.52 | 3rd of 126
In transition -- 82 | 1.49 | 4th of 182
Putbacks -- 101 | 1.10 | 35th of 80
*Tracked by Synergy Sports
**
Minimum 50 plays

3. Looking at the Knicks' three-man lineup combinations that have played at least 100 minutes together this season, featuring Chandler, the most effective one (based on plus-minus) has been the center with Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak -- and it's not even close. Chandler has played 124 minutes with them for a collective plus-minus of +24.8 (per 48 minutes). The second-best lineup is Chandler with Novak and Landry Fields for a plus-minus of +13.1.

One of the main reasons Chandler has been most effective with Lin and Novak is because Lin's pick-and-roll ability and Novak's 3-point shooting specialty have put solid pressure on the defense and allowed for great spacing on the court; therefore, more room for Chandler to maneuver inside and finish.

Highest Plus-Minus Per 48 Minutes For Three-Man Lineups with Tyson Chandler

Minutes* | Plus-Minus Per 48 Minutes

Chandler-Lin-Novak -- 124 | +24.8
Chandler-Fields-Novak -- 117 | +13.1
Chandler-Lin-Iman Shumpert -- 170 | +13.0
Chandler-Lin-J.R. Smith -- 104 | +12.5
Chandler-Shumpert-Novak -- 188 | +12.0
*Minimum 100 minutes played

With a minimum of 200 minutes played as a three-man lineup, Chandler has been most effective with Novak and Smith for a plus-minus of +11.7 (per 48 minutes).

One offensive statistic that's not included here is Chandler's tap-backs off of his teammates' missed shots. That helps the Knicks regroup their offense, occasionally getting quick, open outside looks, especially when Novak and Smith are on the floor. And when they're both hitting, that can demoralize the opposition by giving the Knicks players a ton of confidence and energizing the home crowd.

Chandler's heads-up playmaking on the offensive glass paints a picture of yet another little, but significant thing, Chandler does to help his guys. While he will never get widespread national attention for his offense, those who really know the Knicks, know the team doesn't have a chance in the playoffs without his presence down low. And on defense, it's just the same.

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