If you've followed the Mavs in print, or watched the games via local coverage, you've undoubtedly heard some level of admiration for what Tyson Chandler has brought to this team. You needn't search far to find someone praising his energy, athleticism and, perhaps most importantly, his voice.
In fact, if you've sat close enough to the court, you've likely heard it for yourself. Chandler is not shy with his on-court communication … and it's this on-the-court voice the Mavs have been searching and asking for.
By fit, in his early time here, Chandler has been ideal in Dallas. So much so that the man they signed to be their starter this summer, Brendan Haywood, is still adjusting to an unfamiliar role as a bench contributor. Some questioned Chandler's possible impact as they watched his role diminish for this summer's FIBA World Championship team … a symptom based as much on what that team needed, shooters, as what Chandler could give.
Undoubtedly, those questions have begun to fade. And as long as he can remain healthy, they'll likely continue to do so.
That said, what quantifiable impact has Chandler made? He easily passes The Eye Test. There's no denying a different feel from recent history when he's in the game. But, there must be more than the intangibles of "feel."
The season is early, and single games still carry enough weight to swing statistics wildly, but let's take a look at where this team stands with seven games in the books in comparison with the rest of the NBA, as well as how they relate to last year's version of the Dallas Mavericks.
We'll begin with some simple individual stats for Chandler.
He has a PER of 18.1, an offensive rating of an amazing 144 and a defensive rating of 94.6 (good for second best in the NBA). Of players with over 100 minutes, Chandler leads the Mavs in both offensive and defensive ratings, and is third in PER behind Dirk Nowitzki (22.7) and Jason Terry (21.4).
Due to his limited possessions, and the fact that he rarely touches the ball on offense when not in a prime position to score, his offensive rating is somewhat skewed. But, it does show that he has been wildly effective when he does get his chances. Enough so, that if not for that lack of touches, he would lead the NBA in offensive rating.
For reference, Jason Terry leads the Mavs players with over 100 minutes with an offensive rating of 118. Dirk currently stands at 111.
These stats show how Chandler is playing as an individual, but it's his affect on the team that is most noteworthy. Obviously, not all of these improvements are solely due to Chandler, but it's impossible to deny his impact. If things have changed, particularly on defense, he must be considered the primary reason for that change.
Through seven games, the Mavs now lead the NBA by holding their opponents to 41.7 percent shooting from the floor. For the 2009-10 season, they ranked 15 in this category. A jump of 14 spots in the rankings, and an improvement of four percentage points from last year's 45.7 percent.
Opponents are scoring 91.7 points-per-game, which ranks fourth; compared to last season's rank of 15 by allowing 99.3 per contest. For further reference, the league leader in points allowed last season was the Charlotte Bobcats, who gave up only 93.8 per game.
And, where Chandler's presence may be felt the most, shots taken within ten feet of the basket, the Mavs are second in the NBA by only allowing teams to shoot for 35.5 percent. Teams are still getting close enough to amass the fifth most attempts in this range, but once there, they are finding the relentless activity of Chandler and company a hindrance.
Shawn Marion certainly deserves some of this credit as well, but he was also a part of a defense that fell to the bottom half of the league (16) by allowing teams to shoot 44.2 percent from the same range last season. Yet, combine his defensive prowess with that of Chandler and others, and you see the opposition dropping nearly nine percentage points from 2009-10.
Beyond Marion, the rest of the team must receive their dues as well … and when acknowledging this, you must then find a reason for their improvement. Maybe you need look no further than the man Fish noted Rick Carlisle has already mentioned as a "heart-and-soul" guy: Tyson Chandler.
Justifiably, there remain whispers lamenting the loss (can a player never gained be lost) of Al Jefferson. And, on nights like the loss to the Nuggets, when the Mavs centers managed only three points despite Denver playing without their top three frontcourt players, those whispers slither their way back into the collective fan consciousness.
Whether momentarily embracing this thought, or casually addressing it, you must note that a Mavs team with Al Jefferson would look fairly different both on the roster and in the assets held.
On the roster, there would be no Tyson Chandler or Alexis Ajinca. There would be Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll, as well as their contracts. Either way, Erick Dampier's time as a Mav would have come to an end.
With assets, there would be either one or two less first round picks available in the coming years, picks that would have been required to land Jefferson, but not Chandler.
No one is saying that Chandler is the back-to-the-basket offensive player that Jefferson is, but you can point to the fact that he is a defensive difference maker … and it is defense this team has longed to improve upon. And in this area, Chandler is excelling.
And though there are no stats to quantify this, his impact reaches beyond the numbers on offense. For example, go back and watch Jason Terry's uncontested three-point shot that tied the Celtics game in the final moments. He found himself open, and his shot unchallenged, because his defender, Ray Allen, sagged down into the paint to defend against a possible entry pass to Chandler.
At times, the mere threat of an alley-oop is as powerful a finish as any dunk could be. Go back and watch the Spurs series that ended last season and you'll see a wealth of defenders paying no mind to the Dallas centers, choosing to stay on the perimeter and make those shots much more difficult.
One final collection of stats that may help to illustrate the breadth of Chandler's impact; using Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), which adjusts standard field-goal percentage to account for the added weight of three-point shots, the Mavs find themselves leading the league in the differential between their own eFG percent (53.18) and their opponents (45.44) with a plus-7.74 percent variance.
Not only does this lead the league, it also compares very favorably to what they accrued last season, when their own eFG percent was 50.5, while their opponents shot an eFG percent of 49.5: a variance of only plus-1.
Again, these team stats cannot be attributed solely to Tyson Chandler. Yet, he must take a fair share of the credit as the only significant change in the rotation from the team that ended last season … and perhaps more significantly because The Eye Test professes it as such.
Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd certainly deserve credit, just as, to a lesser degree, players like Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki deserve theirs. One man cannot change everything on his own, but he can help lead a group of his equals towards doing so … and right now, it appears Chandler is doing just that.