Seemingly single-handed, Chandler turned the Knicks into a top-11 defense last season, and he and coach Mike Woodson have picked right back up where he left off. His direction on the defensive side of the ball remains nothing short of inspiring and innovative. He has even found a way to get through to the once defensively disinterested Carmelo Anthony.
How do you put a value on that?
You can’t, although, a selection to the 2013 NBA All-Star Game would be a good start. Yet is that even possible? Chandler is certainly invaluable to the Knicks, but is he worthy of playing on the league’s biggest stage? Is he worthy of being selected to the same game that distinguishes the superstars from the rest of the Association?
In short, he most certainly is. To expand upon that, hell yes, he definitely is. But even so, he may still never get there.
As John Hollinger of ESPN.com notes, if there were ever a year for Chandler to be selected to the All-Star game, it was this one:
Chandler appears to check all of the boxes this season. Respected veteran leader on a winning team? Check. Star player at a position without overwhelming talent? Check. Good enough individual numbers? Check. Actually, his individual numbers are great. Chandler ranks just behind Varejao and Lopez in PER (23.02), including an absurd 71.3 percent shooting mark, and he’s been enough of a scorer (16.5 points per 40 minutes) to be a real threat in the Knicks’ otherwise perimeter-oriented attack. Meanwhile, he’s also a reigning Defensive Player of the Year, who remains one of the league’s elite bigs. Combine that with the Knicks’ success and he’d seem a shoo-in, but as with the other centers, the lack of a separate center spot on the ballot is likely to hurt him. The other number that will hurt? 29.6 — that’s his minutes per game average.”
Hollinger brings up some credible points, all of which point to an overlooked fact—that Chandler is a star. And yet, he’s a star that will likely have to continue to shine outside of the All-Star game.
It’s not just Chandler’s minutes per game, though as Hollinger admits that is a problem. The league scratched the center slot off the All-Star ballot, giving fans free reign vote for a forward-exclusive frontcourt. That diminishes Chandler’s of being selected right there.
The coaches vote could be the ticket that saves Chandler, yet he’s historically under-recognized. Sure, he is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but that wasn’t even enough to earn him All-NBA Defensive first-team honors last season. So to believe that he would be saved by the coaches vote is nothing short of shortsighted.
Lastly, though, we have the strikingly obvious yet simultaneously subtle fact that Chandler’s contributions don’t always show up in the box score. Chandlers 12.2 points and 8.9 boards per game make for a respectable stat line, and his 23.02 PER is absurd, but he doesn’t fill up the scoreboard and grab headlines the way a Brook Lopez or Anderson Varejao.
Does that make him an inferior talent? Absolutely not. Not at all. But it does make him less likely to catch the attention of the voters.
Personally, I love Chandler, and I would go as far as to call him the best center in the Eastern Conference right now (assuming Andrew Bynum stays injured of course). But not everyone sees it that way. The intangibles he brings to the game are not valued as much or held in the same regard by everyone outside of New York.
No, this isn’t to call voters ignorant or stupid, nor do I believe that the bigs who could ultimately be chosen—Varejao, Lopez, etc.—don’t deserve it.
All I’m saying is that Chandler is an All-Star.
One that will likely never see the light of an actual All-Star game.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.