DALLAS – The talk about Tyson Chandler always start with the difference he makes on the defensive end.
Ignore the offensive impact the big man makes at your own risk of ending up on his highlight reel.
Chandler will knock down the occasional midrange jumper, but the vast majority of his points come around the bucket. Or well above the rim. Chandler, whose field-goal percentage annually ranks among the NBA’s best, is especially effective at catching lobs and finishing in rim-rattling fashion.
That facet of Chandler’s game was on full display during Thursday’s Mavericks home opener, when he scored 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four alley-oop finishes and a putback dunk.
The dunks might only count for two points each, but there is a ripple effect to Chandler’s rim attacks that goes far beyond firing up the crowd.
“It opens up the whole floor for us,” small forward Chandler Parsons said. “When he screens and he rolls, it has to draw in the weak side. They have to pick their poison. They have to either tag him on the roll and allow a shooter to get an open shot or we’re going to find him at the rim. He’s probably the best pick-and-roll guy in the league just rolling to the basket and forcing the defense to collapse.”
The term “floor spacer” typically applies to shooters such as Dirk Nowitzki, who demands so much attention that it opens up the lane for opponents. Chandler, as well as second-team center Brandan Wright, space the floor by forcing opponents to respect their dives to the rim.
Both of the Mavs’ athletic bigs, whose huge catch radiuses give guards the luxury of just lobbing the ball up near the bucket, excel at rolling to the rim. And if defenses overplay the initial pick-and-roll action, Chandler and Wright both have a knack for slipping the screen and going right to the rim, which is how Chandler caught a long-distance lob from point guard Jameer Nelson against the Jazz.
It presents a dilemma for defenses, who obviously don’t want to give up high-percentage dunks. Do they let the guard get deep in the lane? Do they cheat off the shooter spotted up on the weak side?
“That puts the pressure on the defense,” Nelson said. “If a guy gets a wide-open shot, that’s him getting them that shot.”
The big men also get a lot of lobs when they aren’t involved in the initial pick-and-roll action, especially when defenses cheat to prevent a popping Nowitzki from getting an open shot. That opens an avenue into the lane for the ball handler, and if the opposing big man steps up, Chandler or Wright often get the opportunity to throw down.
It helps that the Mavs have so many players capable of creating off the dribble. In two games, Chandler has caught lobs from Nelson, Parsons and Monta Ellis after they’ve gotten into the lane and drawn his defender. It’s a safe bet that there are plenty to come from Devin Harris and J.J. Barea for Chandler and Wright as well.
“That makes the game so easy,” Chandler said. “The beautiful thing is we have guys that are very skilled, guys that play at a high level and it makes my job easier. It’s fun out there at times because you can see it happening before the play develops.”
You can also see it later on the highlight shows.