Has Wilson Chandler Arrived?
It’s expected for fans to have differing opinions on the same player. For instance some might find a scoring point guard to assist the offense with his production, while others might see him as a detriment for not including his teammates. A player who frequently flops might be seen as sacrificing his body for his team or could be viewed as one who is too weak to play tough physical defense. Young players are especially prone to having opposing traits applied to them, due to limited minutes they have played. Sometimes, one man’s franchise savior is another man’s bust.
For most of his young career, Wilson Chandler has been above average athletically. However during his first few seasons he’s shown little in terms of statistical achievement. Hence there are two different views on him. The first is of a physically gifted athlete who is primed for a long career. The second of a baller who fails to apply his athletic superiority into productivity. Given Chandler’s sub-par statistics his first three years, I’ve been in the latter category. Here is what I’ve said about him in the past:
One question that remains is how Chandler will develop. On the optimistic side, he did make strides in multiple areas in 2009. Chandler improved his free throw shooting (63.0% to 79.5%), three point shooting (30.0% to 32.8%), scoring (13.4 to 15.6pts/36), assists (1.7 to 2.2 ast/36) and fouls (4.4 to 3.3 pf/36). But these numbers are pedestrian. The young swingman doesn’t do anything great, and his rebounding, blocks, and steals are about what you’d expect from an average 6-8 small forward. His scoring volume is above average (15.6 pts/36) but his efficiency is below (48.0% eFG, 51.5 TS%). Perhaps that’s Chandler’s lot in the NBA: to be the generic player.
For Chandler to make strides and become a genuine NBA starter, he’ll need to make another step in his development. One area could be his three point shooting. Connecting once on every three attempts is too low especially for someone that’s likely to see a lot of attempts in D’Antoni’s system. But a more critical leap would be for Chandler to get to the line more often. Last year he was second to last on the team in FTM/FGA, a measure of a player’s ability to draw contact on the offensive end. Frequently when he gets the ball in the paint, he ends up with a turn around jumper, instead of making a strong move to the hoop. Chandler needs to summon “Ill-Will” when he’s within 6 of the basket.
According to Hoopdata, Chandler dramatically reduced the number of treys in favor for a trip to the rack. By taking more shots in the paint instead of behind the line Chandler’s TS% jumped almost 2 percentage points. Basically when Chandler would receive the ball for an open three he’d head fake then drive towards the hoop instead. On the one hand it’s good that this correction was made and Chandler is a better shooter, but on the other it’s not the kind of improvement you want from a 22 year old. In other words you could say that Wilson Chandler didn’t get better in 2010, but rather the coaching staff made him better.
A year later, the question still remains how Chandler will develop. I’ll give him credit for being able to make the change in his game to forsake the three ball. However if Wilson Chandler wants to remain an NBA starter, especially playing for downtown happy Mike D’Antoni, he’ll need to do much more than that.
However this year, Chandler has taken some solid steps forward in being a more productive player. I’ve highlighted the current season in orange (stats through the first 22 games).
Prior to this year Chandler has been below average with regards to efficiency. However this year Chandler’s overall efficiency (56.2% ts%) has spiked upwards, and is now above the league average (usually around 54% ts%). Last year, Chandler increased his efficiency by eschewing the long ball, but this year he’s improved that area to a respectable level (34.9% 3p%) and is now attempting a career high 5.3 threes per 36 minutes. Additionally he’s drawn contact more often as well (3.5 fta/36). This improved efficiency has given Chandler the highest volume scoring (18.8 pts/36) of his career as well.
However, scoring isn’t the only aspect that Chandler has made positive strides in.
Chandler has also improved his shot blocking, doubling his rate. Although the increase in shooting can be attributed to his own development, this improvement is most likely a result of where he plays. In previous seasons Chandler has been primarily a shooting guard, but this year, he’s seen a majority of time at both forward spots. This change his given “Ill-Will” more time near the hoop which has resulted in more opportunities for blocking shots.
If Chandler can shoot three pointers at a decent rate, keep his efficiency above average, and turn back a fair amount of shots, then he’s going to have a good career in the NBA. However it’s important to remember that this is only a quarter of a season, and even a full year at this pace doesn’t mean that Chandler has arrived. Three point percentage is especially prone to fluctuation, and a regression there could put him back in the category of inefficient scorer. Consider that over the first three years of his career, Chandler appeared to be yet another athletically superior player who failed to grasp what actually wins games. From that perspective, then his current season is a good sign for future development.