I'll admit it right now...I was wrong.
The first time I heard about the Dampier for Chandler trade, my first reaction was probably very similar to many of you all: is this all the mighty Dampier contract will bring us? Going from LeBron James to Tyson Chandler, that was quite a jump. As I thought and read about the trade a little bit more, though, I thought I had begun to understand it. The trade rid the Mavericks of the Carroll contract, got a center who was slightly better than Dampier, while still having a big expiring chip to deal.
I never actually realize that Chandler was traded here to play. Did not realize he could play like this. But honestly, at this point, is there anything Chandler is not doing?
Let's start with his defense. He's averaging almost two blocks a game so far this season, and affecting many more shots with his length and athleticism. It's not just layups, though. Chandler looks very comfortable ranging out to 15 or 20 feet away from the basket to contest long jumpers, something some slower centers cannot handle. He's only generating a steal every other game or so, but this stat is somewhat misleading because many times he will slap the ball out from a driving guard, the ball proceeding to roll out of bounds. This does not count as a steal, but has prevented a good number of easy layups this year. But blocks and steals still does not show how good Chandler's defense is, both man to man and help side. He uses his body well to prevent people to cut off angles while keeping his hands up and active, often forcing a wild shot or pass. On top of that, he's grabbing eight boards a game in the mere 27 minutes he averages.
His biggest issue defensively are personal fouls, but even though he has several games accumulating a large number of them, he is generally doing a good job of spreading them out, so that he rarely is forced to sit large stretches of minutes due to foul trouble.
Offensively, he's scoring efficiently and effectively. 71% on field goals, and 81% on free throws. Just the threat of the lob forces defenses to sag back, opening up space for open jumpers or cutters (mostly jumpers with this team, but still...). Maybe Dirk and Chandler haven't connected on an alley oop yet, but Chandler's verticality forces the defense to be more aware of him, because there's a lot less time to recover on an alley oop, which opens up room for the Germanator. That right there is totally worth it. When he is open down low, his hands are good, he goes up quickly but with power, and he's got some touch when finishing a few feet away from the basket. And, of course, he's already got several spots locked down in my list of top ten plays for the year.
Tell me, what more do you want him to do? Be an emotional leader on the court? Oh yeah, he does that too. Maybe limit his turnovers? Lowest in his career right now. Stay healthy? While this is an issue for the big man, who's had problems in the past, he is totally healthy right now and hopefully stays that way. Sure, maybe he doesn't have a series of post moves or a deadly pick and pop jumper, but then again, name a Maverick center who has.
About the only thing Erick Dampier did better than him? Hit that corner three.