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January 4, 2011
The Clipboard
Chandler's Changes

by Sebastian Pruiti

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At the start of the season, the Knicks' Wilson Chandler was coming off of the bench, playing about 27 minutes per game, while foul-prone rookie center Timofey Mozgov held down a starting spot. As the season continued, Chandler worked his way into the first unit, and now, as we approach the midway point of the season, Chandler is averaging 34.5 minutes per game and playing the best basketball he has ever played in the NBA.

In his fourth season, Chandler is showing a well-rounded game, having success on both ends of the basketball court. This is what has allowed him to improve his Win Percentage (Win%) from 41.8 percent last year to 54.5 percent this year and his WARP from 0.0 last year to 3.4 this year.

On the offensive end, Chandler's improvement (Offensive Rating has jumped from 104.2 last year to 106.4 this year) is largely due to his improved shooting. Chandler has seen his True Shooting Percentage (TS%) rise from 53.4 percent last year to 57.9 percent this year. Breaking it down even further, Chandler's improvement has come from the two most important spots on the floor, at the rim and from the three-point line. Chandler's three-point shooting went up from 26.7 percent last year to 37.1 percent this year, and his shooting at the rim has gone from 68.1 percent last year to 80.8 percent this year. His improvement from both spots is largely due to the pick-and-roll threat of the New York Knicks, mainly Amar'e Stoudemire. The threat of Raymond Felton getting a lay-up or Stoudemire coming free on the roll seems to suck in the defense, and that is what frees up Chandler on the outside:

Here, Kevin Garnett, the man covering Chandler, sinks in to help on Stoudemire's roll. Once Garnett leaves Chandler, Chandler spots up, and gets a wide open look. This is where most of Chandler's three-point opportunities come from, pick-and-rolls in which the defense gets sucked in.

In this case, the defense is forced to send help from the short corner to stop Toney Douglas as he uses a Stoudemire screen. Once again, the end result is Chandler open behind the three-point line.

Once Chandler starts knocking down his three-point jump shot, defenses are going to have to close out hard on him when he gets the kick-out pass off of the pick-and-roll. When that happens, driving lanes open up:

Here, the defense gets sucked in on the pick-and-roll, and Felton is able to send a skip pass to Chandler. Because Chandler has been shooting well from the arc, you see a really hard close-out from the defense. Chandler doesn't even have to pump fake, and he is able to take the baseline driving lane that opens up due to the hard close.

In addition to the pick-and-roll, Chandler is able to get clean looks from the three-point line because he is very good at "spotting up," or putting himself in position to get clean looks and open up passing lanes for his teammates:

Here, Chandler's man takes his eyes off of him, and starts to watch the ball. The second that he turns away from Chandler, he floats from his position on the wing to the corner. This opens up a passing lane for the ball handler to hit Chandler, and it also is an effective way for Chandler to get away from his defender. Here, the result is a wide open three-pointer.

The art of "spotting up" often gets overlooked. Too many times, you see players standing in one spot the entire possession, not really helping the passer. Chandler isn't one of those guys.

Moving back to Chandler's at-the-rim shooting, another reason why he is having so much success there (again, he is leading the NBA in at-the-rim shooting percentage) is because he is strong and athletic enough to be able to grab rebounds and go right up with the ball:

Here, Chandler does a good job of trailing the play and grabbing the offensive rebound. He takes one hard dribble and goes right back up with the ball, preventing anyone on the defense from bothering the shot. Too many times, you see guys grab rebounds on the inside, pump fake a bunch of times, allowing the defense to get back in position to alter the shot, and then miss it. Chandler always seems to go up real quick, or not at all, opting to kick the ball out and restarting the offense instead of forcing up a shot.

On the defensive end, Chandler has also seen his numbers improve. Chandler has seen his Defensive Rating drop from 106.7 last year to 104.4 this year. Again, this is due to Chandler's improvement in two key categories, blocks and defensive rebounds.

Chandler has seen his block percentage (BLK%) go from 1.6% last year to 3.3% this year, and a lot of it has to do with his improved feel on the defensive end.

Here, Dwight Howard makes his catch in the post, and Chandler times his double perfectly. He waits until Howard makes his move and commits to taking a shot, preventing a kick out to the three-point shooter, and then uses his length to get a piece of the basketball.

And here, instead of waiting like he did in the above clip, he goes straight into the post to get the block. The difference is who he was covering. In the above clip, he was defending a very good shooter, in this instance, he is covering Rajon Rondo. Understanding that Rondo isn't that good of a shooter, he leaves early and is able to block the Garnett shot attempt.

In addition to using his length and athletic ability to help get blocks, he has also been using it get rebounds. Chandler has seen his defensive rebound percentage (DR%) rise from 12.7% last year to 16.5% this year. As on the offensive end, Stoudemire has been helping him out.

While Stoudemire doesn't grab a ton of rebounds on the defensive end, he is often the man battling the opposing bigs and keeping them off the boards. That is the case here against Howard. This allows Chandler to swoop in and grab the rebound.

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On the offensive end, Chandler is clearly benefiting from the fact that there is less pressure on him. His usage rate (USG) of 21.4 is exactly the same as his usage rate from the past two seasons, however this year Chandler is obviously benefiting from being the "third banana" behind Stoudemire and Felton. He's getting a lot more open shots and driving opportunities.

On the defensive end, it just seems like things are finally clicking for him. He is starting to better understand his help/double responsibilities, and that has lead to his block percentage doubling. He is also finding himself in better position when trying to grab rebounds, leading to a rise in his defensive rebound percentage.

The 2010-11 Pro Basketball Prospectus is now available in paperback form on Amazon.com. For sample chapters and more information, see our book page.

You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at twitter.com/@SebastianPruiti.

Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.

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