How much do Mavs miss Tyson Chandler?

With Tyson Chandler being named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year today, it’s difficult not to wonder how things might be different if he stayed in Dallas.

The Mavs won’t waste any mental energy on the subject, but it’s impossible for fans and media to ignore.

Here’s all you need to know about how much Dallas misses Chandler: The Mavs’ starting center for the rest of this series is somewhat of a mystery after Brendan Haywood was benched for the beginning of the second half in Monday’s Game 2 loss.

Haywood hasn’t been on the floor for the last few minutes in either of the down-to-the-wire finishes in the first two games of the series. Coach Rick Carlisle, whose team is down 0-2 to Oklahoma City as the series shifts to Dallas, cited quickness and energy as two reasons Haywood has played so little against the Thunder (29 minutes in two games).

There aren’t many centers quicker than Chandler. There aren’t any with more energy.

Chandler averaged 8.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game in last season’s West finals, when Dallas dismissed the Thunder in five games. The Mavs’ three-headed monster, as they call their center trio of Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright, has combined to put up slightly better numbers (11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks) with a heck of a lot less presence in this series.

Would the Mavs be better off with Chandler serving as the emotional leader/defensive anchor and a three-headed backup monster? For right now, that answer is obvious.

That doesn’t make the decision to let Chandler go any more illogical. Mark Cuban made what he considered a serious attempt to keep Chandler while maintaining financial flexibility, offering him a one-year, $20 million deal.

Chandler considered it a no-brainer to take long-term security, choosing a four-year, $58 million deal from the Knicks. As divorces go, it was an amicable one.

Chandler went to a big-market team with star power. The Mavs moved on, flipping a trade exception acquired in his sign-and-trade deal for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Lamar Odom arrived in Dallas with a team-friendly contract, but he also brought team-wrecking baggage. Swing and a miss for strike one.

The Mavs still had dreams of pulling off a Heat-like free-agency bonanza, landing Dwight Howard and Deron Williams this summer. That’s no longer possible, with Howard opting to commit (contractually, at least) to the Magic for one more season. Strike two.

If Williams doesn’t come to Dallas this summer, the decision to kiss Chandler goodbye can be considered one of the great strikeouts of Cuban’s ownership tenure.

We can’t completely judge that decision until July. For now, the Mavs have the hands full trying to fight their way into a series without the big man from their championship run.