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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chandler’s Improvement Mostly Charity

When the 2009 season started, many Knick fans had high hopes on Wilson Chandler. As a rookie, Chandler’s stats weren’t overly impressive. Although he showed some athleticism, his numbers were pedestrian. Chandler rebounded well (6.7 reb/36), but his defensive stats were average (0.8 stl/36, 0.8 blk/36), and his shooting was bad (48.0% TS%, 45.7% eFG, 30.0% 3P%, 63.0% FT%). However Chandler was only 20 years old, and pre-drinking age players are usually the most volatile. Looking over the players who had a PER under 12 as a 19 or 20 year old shows a wide variety of players, from future All Stars (Tony Parker, Rashard Lewis, Joe Johnson) to future McDonalds employees (Joseph Forte, Donnell Harvey, William Avery, Ha Seung-Jin)

Although it was unlikely for Chandler to turn into an All Star, it was entirely possible that he would be able to turn into a solid NBA starter. Unfortunately, Chandler’s second season showed little improvement. As early as the beginning of December Knick fans were calling for Chandler to be sent back to the bench. On December 22nd, Chandler’s had improved his FT% to 82.8, but not much else. His PER was a paltry 12.1, nearly the same as last year. Chandler’s main weakness was his inability to get to the free throw line. He felt more comfortable taking jump shots. His main weakness was from behind the arc where his percentage stayed at 30%, but his attempts per minute increased 250%. Even when Chandler got close to the rim, he preferred to take a spinning fade away jumper in lieu of going strong to the hoop.

One of the tools statisticians use to measure a player’s ability to earn points from the free throw line is FT/FG. Basically this measures the ratio of free throws made to the field goal shots attempted. It will give you a good idea of how often a player gets to (and converts) from the free throw line. Last year Chandler’s FT/FG was 14.0, which was third lowest on the team. This year began no differently, as Chandler’s FT/FG on December 22nd was exactly the same 14.0.

However Chandler has put together a string of 5 strong games, earning praise for his play. The secret to Chandler’s success is simple: he’s been taking it to the basket more. Over the last 5 games Chandler’s FT/FG has been 34.9, raising his season average to 18.2. Of course 5 games isn’t significant, and this change might just be an outlier in Chandler’s career. But if Chandler is able to score more from the charity stripe, it’ll make him a more efficient scorer. This helps the Knicks in the short term (as Chandler is still in the Knicks starting lineup), and the long (he’s more likely to develop and/or be valuable to other teams).

But more significantly is that perhaps this coaching staff noticed this flaw in Chandler’s game and attempted to correct it. This would be a substantial gain for the team, because it marks their ability to improve their players. Two of Isiah’s biggest acquisitions were Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford, two young players that the team hoped would turn into NBA All Stars. Unfortunately Curry & Crawford continued to commit the same mistakes over and over and never improved. If the current Knick coaching staff can identify a young player’s flaws and attempt to rectify them, then it shows the team has improved in that area as well.

Granted this doesn’t mean that the team can turn any young player into an NBA starter. Obviously credit for this change, should it be permanent, should go to Chandler for being physically and mentally able to get to the charity stripe more often. Not every NBA player will be able to correct their flaws. However during the Isiah era, it felt as if the team was stuck in the same place. Every month the Knicks suffered from the same problems and made the same mistakes, without any change. At least Knick fans can be more confidant that the team probably won’t fall into the same malaise.

Now if they could just work on Chandler’s three point shooting…

13 comments on “Chandler’s Improvement Mostly Charity

  1. Thomas B.

    Very nice read there Mike.

    It is a good sign that Wilson is getting to the line. It shows that he is willing to make changes and that the coaching staff recognizes ways to help him. Crawford really drove me mad with his unwilligness to get to the line. He had all the tools to be a 6-8 trip to the line player but he never seemed to want that. Oh well he is Nelson’s problem now.

  2. BigBlueAL

    Funny you mentioned young players and improving. That has been my problem with Nate. To me, he is almost the same player today he was in his rookie/2nd year. Dont know if the numbers bear it out, but just watching it seems that way to me. Unlike someone like David Lee whose offensive game just looks so much better today than even last year.

    I dont believe Lee is worth the money he will most likely be able to earn thru FA which is why I dont mind trading him and assume keeping Nate should only cost in the 5 to 6 million per year range which is fine with me. The thing about Chandler is besides his young age, just watching him play gets you excited because the potential seems limitless. There is nothing he cant do, he certainly can improve alot in many areas, but he can shoot both from deep and mid-range, spotting up and off the dribble. Can post-up, drive, dunk on people and even finish after drawing contact. He is now a very good FT-shooter, and can block shots and has shown the ability to cover all 5 positions on the court. Plus he rebounds a bit too.

    That is why to me most Knicks fans are excited about Chandler, and you can count me in that group of fans who cant wait to see where this kid is at in a couple of years….

  3. italian stallion

    As was the case during the summer and pre season, every interview I hear or quote I read about Chandler from a Knick or the coaching staff praises his work ethic, suggests he both asks for and listens to advice from others, and talks about his huge upside.

    It’s nice to blessed with athletic talent. It’s also a good sign when someone demonstrates a strong worth ethic and the determination to improve. IMO, when you put them together it dramatically increases the probability of improvement over a random case.

    First it was his free throw percentage.

    Now he’s using his athletic ability to get to the hoop and draw fouls. He also has that aggressive look back in his eyes “again” after spending most of December looking a little lost.

    There are no guarantees when you are trying to project how a young player will develop over time, but at least we can feel comfortable that we have a solid prospect. That’s more than we usually have.

    Next on the agenda is a reduction in 3 point shot attempts and better overall shot selection.

  4. Dan Panorama

    “Funny you mentioned young players and improving. That has been my problem with Nate.”

    Weird, I see Nate as vastly improved since his early days. His shot selection and control are way better than they used to be he doesn’t showboat half as much as when he started.

  5. italian stallion

    We should keep in mind that Gallinari is getting closer to his return. So we may (insert small prayer here) finally get to see if we have another player that can potentially be part of the long term plans of the team.

    Personally, I can’t wait for his return. I really don’t mind the losing all that much when I get to watch a couple of improving kids in action. The “hope” is enough to keep my interest.

    Lastly, Curry will be back this week. If he can recover his form on offense within a few weeks and draw some double teams, I’d like to see him on the court with Gallinari later this month to see what the Rooster can do from the outside when/if he is left alone. We could really use a consistent outside shooter. We haven’t had one in a long time, but the talk is that this kid can really shoot. I hope they are right.

  6. Gian Casimiro (SSoM)

    Can one of the more seasoned stat guys explain something to me? I was looking at Marion’s stats last year for context and saw that he had a lower FT/FG than Chandler has this year.

    Marion
    eFG 55.0
    FT 70.7
    3P% 33.3
    TS% 57.0
    FT/FG 13

    Chandler
    eFG 46.6
    FT 81.9
    3P% 30.3
    TS% 50.7
    FT/FG 18

    Is Marion’s eFG and TS% higher because of his greater number of 3’s made? Just asking cause Chandler’s got him on free throws.

  7. Nick C.

    Marion’s FG% is 46.0 v. 42.2 for Chandler and Chandler shoots below 33% on 3s but puts up more -3.8/g to 1/g for Marion so that’s a minus or at least below 50%. Chandler’s only edge in he gets to the line a bit more at a better percentage. That’s my only explanation.

  8. Nick C.

    Marion’s FG% is 46.0 v. 42.2 for Chandler and Chandler shoots below 33% on 3s but puts up more -3.8/g to 1/g for Marion so that’s a minus or at least below 50%. Chandler’s only edge in he gets to the line a bit more at a better percentage. That’s my only explanation.

  9. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Basically what Nick said. The equation for TS% is:

    PTS / (2 * (FGA + 0.44 * FTA))

    You’re dividing points by the number of shots taken (field goal & modified free throws). So a player that scores a lot with few shots will have a high TS%. But one that does it with more shots will have a lower TS%.

    Comparing Marion last year to Chandler this year:

    SM 15.1 pts/36, 12.2 FGA/36, 2.3 FTA/36
    WC 15.8 pts/36, 14.2 FGA/36, 3.2 FTA/36

    Chandler scores slightly more, but takes up more shots/possessions to do so. In a vacuum if you had both players you would prefer Marion, because the team would have 2 more field goal attempts (and one more free throw) to score 0.7 pts (per 36 minutes), which is lower than the league average.

  10. Owen

    Gian – I think the answer to your question might simply be that last year Marion shot 51% from the field and Chandler only is shooting 42% this year. That would account for most of the reason Marion’s ts% was so much higher. He was starting from a much higher base.

    I would also note that Marion in Phoenix also averaged less than 1.5 turnovers per 36 generally, playing at a very high pace which is pretty impressive. Turnovers are a part of scoring efficiency although not every turnover comes in the act of trying to score.

    Re Free throws, not every player can make hay at the free throw line. But it is a very significant source of offensive efficiency, which is why it’s one of the four factors. But every player is different. Almost like a fingerprint they have different scoring profiles.

    Some players are really good at getting to the foul line. Take Kevin Martin. He is shooting 43% from the field but has a ts% of 58% (which is actually low for him and probably will rise a bit.) He took more than 9 free throws per game last year and hit more than 8. That is sort of extraordinary, especially considering how few people know who he is. Although, from peering at B-R I can see that Martin managed to post a ts% of 60.4% while only taking 4.3 fts per 36 his sophomore year.

    How about Devin Harris. He is taking nearly 10 free throws per 36 this year and hitting 83% of them. As a result his 45% fg% with just one made three per game turns into a ts% of nearly 59%.

    Ultimately, its difficult to see Chandler becoming a very efficient player unless he can improve in one of three areas: three point shooting, free throws, or scoring in the paint. His “fingerprint” so far doesn’t suggest to me that his he will do it. He has always seemed to be in love with the midrange jumpshot, which is the least efficient shot on the court. But anything can happen. A lot of things do change in the first 3-4 years of a players career.

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