Wilson Chandler has been taken out of the rotation due to a lingering groin injury and coach Mike D’Antoni is considering shutting him down for the season with 14 games left. As this dismal season winds down and Chandler’s appears to be ending, one reporter appropriately wondered aloud whether Wilson Chandler’s performance made the Knicks a more attractive team to the upcoming summer’s free agents. The question was particularly poignant since Donnie Walsh and coach D’Antoni made it clear that both Chandler and Gallinari had the responsibility to show free agents, like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, that they were a viable foundation for a winning foundation.
When asked how he faired this season, Wilson Chandler, who averaged 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists, was not overly enthusiastic about his performance only acknowledging that his season was “O.K..” He felt he could do better and he is right.
Wilson’s statistical improvement was relatively minor from last season to the current one. Firmly entrenched in the starting unit, Chandler averaged 2.3 more minutes and both his shooting percentage (48% this season compared to 43% last season) and free throw percentage (.795 to .806) improved slightly. Early in the season, as he was returning from ankle surgery without adequate preparation, he was settling for three-pointers, but as the losses mounted D’Antoni encouraged Wilson to rely on his mid-range jumper and drives to the basket.
Wilson saw small declines in his rebounds (5.4 this season to 5.3 in 08-09), steals (0.7 to 0.9), blocked shots (0.8 to 0.9) and three point shooting from (33% to 27%). According to John Hollinger’s personal efficiency rating (PER) Chandler improved his production per minute played but remains below the league average.
However, Chandler’s development must be seen well beyond the statistics and within the dull grey kaleidoscope of the Knicks experience.
When viewed through that bizarre lens, Chandler’s performance can be judged as satisfactory with reason for hope. His play was a question mark because of the ankle surgery and although he continued to experience pain, he played and remained relatively consistent. He also remained consistent despite the perpetual changes in rotations, teammates and atmosphere. His game, like his personality, is very even although he easily disappears from games — but not nearly as frequently as his anointed co-star Danilo Gallinari.
Chandler has also been one of the two best defenders on a team that has not focused on defense much of the season. It appears that if he develops a more aggressive approach defensively and on offense he can become even better at the ripe old age of 23. Right now he is an inexpensive quality player with considerable upside. There is some question about his basketball IQ mainly those who view his slow, low key interview style as a mental issue. The imagery starts to take on a life of itself as his intelligence gets questioned with every on-court error. However, there is little question that most of the time he makes the right decisions (hence 15 points and 5.4 rebounds per).
Chandler’s season was o.k., but he can be better and this upcoming summer if he can work on his strength, low-post game and defensive mind-set, he will become a terror for this team.