How Wilson Chandler Has Become Crucial to the Knicks’ Success

As the Knicks began the season, the decision from Coach Mike D’Antoni to bring Wilson Chandler off the bench to provide a spark appeared to be a smart one.

With Ronny Turiaf starting in the frontcourt, Chandler’s offense seemed to complement Turiaf’s defense beautifully as the two split minutes. Although both players were effective in their given roles, it was clear after a 3-8 start to the season that the Knicks needed more offensive firepower early on.

Firepower is just what Chandler has given the Knicks as he’s transitioned back into a starting role, averaging a career high 17.2 points. He has gotten into a comfortable flow with an offense that features Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton.

A big difference in the Knicks’ success on offense this season is that players are being smarter about their shot selection. In the past, the Knicks were about jacking up three pointers. Players now patiently wait for the ball, setting up quality shots for themselves. While Chandler may not have been a main culprit of those subpar quality shots, it’s obvious that patiently waiting in the corner to knock down jumpers has done wonders for his game this season. His 37 percent shooting from beyond the arc has become a huge strength to his offensive game, as well as the Knicks in general.

It comes as no surprise that all of Chandler’s shooting percentages are either career highs or at the very least, on par with previous highs.

Also a team strapped for a rebounding presence, the Knicks hoped that lengthy forwards Chandler and Danilo Gallinari would up their rebounding games this season. Chandler, for one, set out very early to succeed at the task, averaging double-digit rebounds in his first few games off the bench.

Whether it be from now sharing the court more often with a more prevalent rebounder in Amar’e Stoudemire, or simply just not able to total so many boards, Chandler’s rebounding average has evened out to a more realistic 6.4, still a career high.

The Knicks have also become a better team on defense, settling in as one of the league’s leaders in blocks. Chandler has been a part of that all season long, being more aggressive on the defensive end. Playing power forward, Chandler has played more down low on defense, averaging almost double his career average in blocks with 1.6.

The caveat to Chandler’s success however (for the Knicks), is that the team neglected to grant him a contract extension, and he will be a restricted free agent next summer. The decision not to offer such an extension did come while Chandler was playing off the bench, so perhaps the team wanted to gauge his market value as a sixth man first.

However, even if considered a starter, it’s possible the Knicks view Chandler as replaceable, as the team is said to have eyes for Carmelo Anthony.

Chandler and Gallinari have both been mentioned as possible trading chips for the Knicks to send Denver’s way for Anthony, but the Nuggets have shown little interest to this point.

When asked how he feels about the Nuggets not showing interest in him, Chandler has shown no signs of disappointment, stating how much he would rather stay in New York.

The ironic thing is that playing power forward (and being a more aggressive player with the rebounds, blocks and overall defense) may prove that Chandler could coexist with Anthony more so than Gallinari.

Furthermore, it’s likely Chandler would be a more versatile fit than Gallinari off the bench if need be as well.

If the Knicks were to wait for Anthony to hit the free agent market rather than make a trade for him, the team could come away with both him and Chandler.

Chandler’s restricted free agent status makes it possible for the Knicks to go over the salary cap in order to sign him (after potentially using up cap to sign Anthony), as well giving the team the opportunity to match any contract offer Chandler may sign with another squad.

While signing both players would seemingly put the Knicks way over the cap (after Donnie Walsh fought so mightily for flexibility), signing such quality players is the main reason why all the available cap room was created in the first place.

What may happen in the next few months is pure speculation, but how crucial Chandler has become to the Knicks’ success this season has become solid fact. His mass versatility has proven that he can contribute to the Knicks in a variety of ways.

That versatility may ultimately be the magnetic force that keeps him (succeeding) on the Knicks for quite a while.

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