Tyson Chandler has made a more positive impact on the Los Angeles Lakers than even the team would have ever thought possible were they injected with truth serum when the 36-year-old veteran was signed.
The Lakers are undefeated in the two games of the Chandler era, with their second victory coming in an easy one over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, and while the team has been playing better as a whole as of late, they also can’t help but notice how much Chandler has helped their biggest issues.
After the win against Sacramento, LeBron James raved to reporters about the “one-two punch” Chandler and JaVale McGee have given Los Angeles from the center spot (via Spectrum Sportsnet):
“He just shored up our frontcourt. We have a great one-two punch now in JaVale and Tyson. JaVale gives us so much to start the game with his ability to protect the rim and also be so efficient offensively. And then when he comes out the game, we don’t have no drop. Tyson comes in and he brings even more intensity, and it’s great to have that in our front court.”
McGee agreed with James’ assessment of his new tag-team partner in the center rotation:
“The addition of Tyson is really helping us just because it’s another rim-runner and another seven-footer who can protect the rim and get down the floor.”
Chandler’s biggest impact has been on the former, rim-protecting front. The Lakers are allowing 84.2 points per 100 possessions with Chandler on the floor, which is not only the best mark of any Laker to play more than 40 minutes this season, but would be BY FAR the best defensive rating in the league if prorated over the whole season (currently the Denver Nuggets rank first with 102.5, per NBA.com).
However, it should be noted that over the two games since Chandler joined the team, the Lakers are giving up 99.1 points per 100 possessions when he sits. So Chandler is making a difference, but the team as a whole is also playing better defense of late (their defensive rating of 96.1 over the last two contests ranks second in the league over that span, and the 103.1 they’ve allowed in their last five games would rank fifth in the league over that sample size).
Both developments are positive for the Lakers moving forward. The team is learning each other defensively and able to get off to solid starts with McGee as their anchor, but as James notes, they’re also now not seeing a drop-off when Chandler enters the game.
Instead of Kyle Kuzma coming in as an overmatched small-ball option, or Johnathan Williams or Ivica Zubac as under-seasoned center alternatives, they now have a former Defensive Player of the Year who still seems to have enough in the tank to give the Lakers a few solid minutes a night.
It remains to be seen if the Lakers can keep up this level of defense all season, but if they can just stay out of the bottom 10 teams in the league — they’ve currently climbed to the 17th-best mark in defensive efficiency, allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions — then they could get right back on track towards the playoffs as long as their offense holds up.
That’s not just the Chandler effect, but he’s certainly helped quite a bit so far.