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NBA Free Agency Q&A With Mavs Moneyball: How Much Is Tyson Chandler Really Worth?

Tyson Chandler helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA Finals with his defense, but how much is he worth in free agency...for a team like the Golden State Warriors?<em> Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.</em>
Tyson Chandler helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA Finals with his defense, but how much is he worth in free agency...for a team like the Golden State Warriors? Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.
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When I first contacted LJRotter of SB Nation's Mavs Moneyball about a Tyson Chandler Q&A two days ago, the Golden State Warriors still seemed to have a`realistic chance to sign him.

Barring a minor miracle, that's no longer the case - as most people reading this site probably know by now, Chandler is likely headed to the New York Knicks for somewhere around $58 million over 4 years and the Warriors have turned their attention elsewhere.

Nevertheless, in light of a Warriors offer that was considered excessive by some fans before being trumped by the Knicks offer, there might be a lingering question for fans dreaming about what could've been for the Warriors with a true center in the fold: How much is Chandler worth?

LJRotter and her crew from MMB have some interesting insight for fans still wondering whether it would have been worthwhile to offer Chandler more money to make sure he came to the Bay.

MMB split up the questions I sent them between three writers: LJRotter (site manager), andytobo, and Boweman55.

1. GSoM: Let's just get this one out of the way: do you think this man is worth the max?

Boweman55: Sadly, yes, if in the right situation. Offering max contracts to centers who have had two outstanding years surrounded by slight mediocrity seems like the exact reason the NBA went into a lockout. Whether you like it or not, Chandler is a difference maker, a rarity among most pivot men in the NBA. As much as guard play has been heralded with recent rule changes, all the NBA champions of this decade controlled the paint. Chandler does that and he does it well. Plus, have you seen him hedge a ball handler on a pick and roll? It was like the first time I listened to The Beatles.

2. GSoM: Obviously Chandler was a big part of the Mavs' championship success last season, but when the lockout ended, where did re-signing him stand on your list of lockout-shortened "off-season" priorities?

andytobo: I think Tyson is the #1 priority for the Mavs this offseason, though I don't think they'll get him. Put simply: with Tyson the Mavs have a guaranteed chance to repeat as champions while Dirk is still in his prime; without him, they're cast into a world of uncertainty with all signs pointing to their inability to compete again before Dirk is too old to help much.

Also, as my brother pointed out to me earlier today, a Dirk-Deron team with no defense isn't a championship contender. You would be well within your rights to wonder if that combo would be appreciably better than Durant-Westbrook (with Durant being the best scorer of the four and Westbrook by far the least valuable player, though still valuable). That doesn't make Chandler worth 15 million-or more-a year, but it doesn't make him dispensable either.

3. GSoM: Many people have talked about how Chandler "changed the culture" of the Mavs defensively. But as someone who followed the Mavs pre-Chandler, what kinds of things really stand out to you as concrete examples of that "change"?

andytobo: I think calling Tyson Chandler a "culture changer" is a handy way for clueless sports columnists to explain what they don't understand. To suggest that Dirk, Terry and Kidd were unwilling to do whatever they could to win before Chandler got here is to never have watched a Mavericks game. What Tyson is, actually, is a "defense changer." That is, his lateral quickness made up for the slow feet of the Mavs' perimeter defenders. Add that to Marion's ability to cover wings of all description, and Kidd's ability to handle big guards and you've got a defense. Without that, you've got a leaky sieve of a defense that gets burned by fast guards. It's math, not magic. But it sure is necessary.

4. GSoM: Chandler has obviously been lauded for his defensive prowess, but he's not exactly known for his offensive ability. In the one season you spent watching him closely with the Mavs, was there anything about his game offensively that surprised you or changed your previous impression of him (or that might surprise fans of whatever team he lands with who think they know exactly what they're getting)?

Boweman55: If there were any surprises, it was definitely Chandler's touch on his shot. I always knew Chandler was a beast barreling toward the rim with full speed ahead, dunking the ball at will when in the right position, but I was far more impressed by his ability to finish on non-dunk plays. Despite usually only being in a position to finish at the rim, Chandler finished only two of five seasons in Chicago shooting over 50 percent, an alarming number. Once he established himself in New Orleans, Chandler has regularly finished in the high 50s and low 60s. But what changed in Dallas?

His free throw percentage skyrocketed, shooting 73 percent (this shooting uptrend actually started with the Bobcats, where he shot over 70 percent from the stripe as well in his last season with them). Chandler's free throw stroke looks smooth and it wouldn't be ridiculous for him to shoot close to 80 percent. Also, he shot 48 percent on mid-range jumpers, which -quite frankly - is terrifying. He only took less than one per game, but Dallas every now and then sprang a play for Chandler to hit a jumper at either elbow and Chandler finished those plays surprisingly well.

But know this: The two best offensive seasons for Chandler? Playing with Chris Paul and Jason Kidd. Better tell Steph Curry to sharpen his alley-oop lobs (which might be moot if Paul lands in Golden State).

5. GSoM: Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas has reported that Dallas' goal is to let players like Chandler go so they can make a run at All-Stars like Dwight Howard next season. But it seems like some Mavs fans - and Stephen A. Smith! - would rather keep Chandler in Dallas. Which direction would you be happier with?

LJRotter: I am of the opinion that letting Chandler go is a Catch-22 of sorts. If we keep him, we severely limit the amount of money we have to spend on the crazy free agent class of 2012. Even if we let everyone else go this year, we still handicap ourselves immensely. However, if we let him go, we lose a centerpiece of this team's ability to attract the members of the crazy free agent class of 2012. So it comes down to whether you're of the opinion that the Mavericks can repeat with their same team from last year.

As you can see even from the above authors' varying opinions, it's difficult to truly determine the worth of Chandler. I, personally, am a firm believer in chemistry, and having seen the way this championship team worked together, I would rather see Chandler stick around.

6. GSoM: I saw a comment on Mavs Moneyball that called Chandler a "one-and-done superhero"; other people believe that Chandler - along with a point guard like Chris Paul - could lead a lottery team to the playoffs. Which perspective do you feel yourself leaning toward right now?

LJRotter: Aw, you read our site :) Chandler isn't one and done by any means. His limits come only from his ability to stay healthy, and he proved quite handily that he can last season. He is the type of player who can both create his own offense and benefit from the offense of his teammates.

Dallas is a group-focused team, as we all saw in the playoffs last year, that simply thrived on the presence of Chandler in the post. Would he be capable of joining up with Paul and leading just about anyone into the post-season? If he's healthy, sure. But as you all saw from the Mavs, it takes more than two to tango in basketball. And more than three, for that matter.

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