Take your pick: Mike Conley (Grizzlies), Luol Deng (Bulls), Dwight Howard (Magic), Serge Ibaka (Thunder), LeBron James (Heat), Shawn Marion (Mavericks), Chris Paul (Clippers) and Josh Smith (Hawks).
They're all in consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.
But there is one stat that shows why Tyson Chandler should be ahead of them all in the race. In 2010-11, with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and a few defensive pieces (most notably, Wilson Chandler and Jared Jeffries), the Knicks had a defensive rating of 110.1 (22nd of 30 in the league). This season? 100.3 (fourth).
While all those aforementioned players should be applauded, they were also helping their teams excel defensively last season. Chandler has led the Knicks to the biggest jump in defensive efficiency. Without him, the Knicks don't even crack the top 15. In fact, in the two games Chandler missed this season, on March 7 and 9, the Knicks gave up 118.5 points per game. And they lost both times.
Not only that, but for most of the season Chandler was helping Mike D'Antoni's offensive-minded team make stops, and the Knicks allowed only about 95 points per game. Under Mike Woodson, guess what? They've been holding opponents to 87.8 points per game -- the best mark in the league since March 14, when Woodson replaced D'Antoni.
Of course, a lot of credit goes to the defensive-minded Woodson, the enforcer, who's been with the team since training camp. But the Knicks couldn't have done it without Chandler, the facilitator, who's been as advertised. Blocks (1.5 per game), rebounds (9.8 per game), weakside and pick-and-roll help, active feet, long arms, vocal leadership -- and he's doing it all while playing through pain (groin and left wrist injuries).
Here's a look further into some of the numbers to demonstrate Chandler's defensive impact (entering Friday's play, according to ESPN Stats & Information):
The Knicks allow almost three more points when Chandler isn't on the court, compared to when he's playing (95.5 vs. 93.0).
In pick-and-roll defense guarding the ball handler, Chandler's presence leads to a higher turnover rate and a lower scoring percentage, compared to Jeffries and Josh Harrellson. Turnover percentage: Chandler (22.3.), Jeffries (15.9) and Harrellson (16.4). Scoring percentage: Chandler (35.3), Jeffries (46.0) and Harrellson (36.1).
In pick-and-roll defense guarding the roll man, Chandler's presence leads to fewer points per play, compared to Jeffries and Harrellson. Points per play: Chandler (0.889), Jeffries (1.000) and Harrellson (1.188).
The Knicks allow 4.3 fewer points from a distance of 5 feet when Chandler is on the court. When Jeffries is playing, the Knicks allow 0.7 more points, and when Harrellson is in the game, the Knicks allow 2.8 more points.
While many fans were initially saddened to see Chauncey Billups get amnestied back in December, Chandler has been the all-season-long glue guy. He has helped the team remain consistent on defense through all the injuries, and he will give the Knicks, currently the eighth seed, a better fight in the playoffs no matter who they face.
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