It’s a more than fair question. Since being traded to the Nuggets in 2011 as part of the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster, Chandler has failed to impress on a consistent basis. Though he averaged 12.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in his first-half season with the team, such mediocre production has turned out to be the pinnacle of his tenure in Denver.
Last season, Chandler missed part of the season while playing overseas. When he finally made his way stateside, he appeared in just eight games before sitting out the rest of the year with a hip injury. During his limited time on the court, he put up just 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game on 39.2 percent shooting from the floor.
But that didn’t matter. The Nuggets had signed him to a five-year, $37 million contract, so they were committed. Plus, things had to get better this year, right?
Chandler has appeared in four games thus far this season, and is averaging 6.5 points and five rebounds per contest on 31.3 percent shooting from the field. He hasn’t played since mid-November and the Nuggets continue to struggle despite being heralded as one of the deepest teams in the league.
And that’s not even the worst of it.
According to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, Chandler’s hip condition is going to keep him sidelined indefinitely:
He’ll be out at least the next five games, it appears. The swingman forward of the Nuggets did not accompany the team to Atlanta Tuesday, and George Karl all but ruled him out for the whole trip.
Right now, there seems to be an undercurrent of real worry about Chandler’s problematic hip condition. A labral tear to the left side ended Chandler’s season last April. He received surgery from renowned Vail hip specialist Marc J. Philippon, and seemed to be all the way back when he returned early this season, playing four games.
Then, Nov. 12 at Phoenix, he re-aggravated the injury and hasn’t played since. Is another surgery a possibility? The Nuggets have not given much information one way or the other about his outlook. But with the calendar coming up on a month since he last played, you have to wonder.
Taking recent events into account, is it safe to say that Chandler is a bust, one that Denver should give up on?
Absolutely not. Not yet anyway.
Understandably, Denver has to be discouraged by his recent prognosis, but when I look at Chandler, I see a future star. No, his numbers with the Nuggets are not indicative of a future star, or even a promising prospect, yet those numbers are not indicative of the player he truly is.
Remember, this is the same Chandler who averaged 14 or more points for three straight seasons with the New York Knicks. He was traded to Denver during that third season, and was averaging 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds on 46.1 percent shooting from the floor at the time. How’s that for potential?
I understand that this is a different team and a different season, but Chandler is only 25 and has already proven he can excel on a playoff team like the 2010-11 Knicks. So who’s to say he cannot succeed with the Nuggets?
Obviously, his hip is of major concern, but what Denver needs to do is allow him to take his time and properly rehabilitate, because truth be told, he has a wealth of potential, a ceiling that implies he can become a star reserve for the Nuggets not unlike James Harden once was for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Patience is not an easy virtue to exude in an NBA that values instant gratification, though. But for the Nuggets, Chandler is worth it, even though he yet to prove it. Let’s not neglect to mention either that since he’s under contract for the next four years, he’d be tough to trade in the midst of his bout with a hip injury.
Still, even if dealing him becomes a viable option, Denver cannot afford to explore that avenue.
Because the likely return is not going to yield anything near Chandler’s true value, anywhere near what he has the potential to do.
And so, the Nuggets must endure now, because it’s going to get better. It has to.
At least that’s what Chandler’s skill set and potential as a contributor suggests.
Dan Favale is an avid basketball analyst and firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His work can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.