In a nutshell, the addition of Tyson Chandler to the Suns roster made all the sense in the world IF they had gotten LaMarcus Aldridge to choose Phoenix over San Antonio. It would have been genius.
Aldridge didn’t want to play any center, so getting Chandler was Phoenix’s way of showing Aldridge that he wouldn’t have to play the 5 in Phoenix. Without Chandler, the Suns may not have been in the final two with San Antonio for Aldridge’s services.
But they didn’t get the former Portland power forward. And now they have four years of Chandler at $52 million. And without Aldridge being here the move is what it is — a high-priced signing of a great locker room guy, a high-character guy but a past-his-prime center on the downside of his career.
Chandler is struggling in his first season with the Suns and it’s really no surprise. He is a smart defender but he is non-athletic, has little to no offensive game and is just not a difference-maker.
Now Chandler has played and will continue to play a role in the development of younger players, teaching them how to prepare and lending veteran leadership. But I said it at the time of the signing, and I will say it again, I believe Alex Len is just as good a player right now. Len was the Suns first-round pick, fifth overall, in the 2013 draft. He was developing nicely after overcoming some early injuries in his career and showed tremendous promise. Adding Chandler will stunt his development some. Not a ton, but some. Len’s minutes are down from 22 per game last season to 14.5 per game.
To date, Chandler is averaging 5.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game. Last season in Dallas, he averaged 10.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He is playing about five minutes less per game than last season. And his shooting percentage this season of .464 is the second-lowest of his career and well off last year’s .667.
I would have much rather preferred the Suns overpaid Chandler on a one-year deal for $18 million than giving him four years. He is 33-years-old and has 15 years of wear and tear on his 7-foot-1, 240-pound frame. The Suns will have him in years 33, 34, 35 and 36. But as life in the NBA goes, players get paid on who they were not what they are going to be.
Again, you can’t downplay the quality of leadership Chandler brings to the table. But in an 82-game season, the Suns will be fortunate to get 25 good games out of him. In 13 games he has two double-doubles — a 15-point, 13-rebound performance against Portland and a 14-point, 17-rebound game against the Clippers. In his last eight games, Chandler has reached double figures in rebounding only once.
The Suns are trying to end a five-year playoff drought. They are 7-7 through 14 games, two games off of their pace from last year when they began the season 9-5. Maybe Chandler can help them get to the playoffs. Maybe his impact is greater than what we are seeing right now. Or maybe the expiration date on the Suns’ new big man is closer than they thought.