The Knicks renaissance is in full swing with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, but Linsanity hasn't been the only reason for the Knicks' recent improvement.
Center Tyson Chandler has been an ever-present so far this season and has almost single-handedly transformed the defense from a perennial bottom-dweller to a solid outfit.
In a team that boasts three players who, let's be frank here, are terrible on defense as their superstars (Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin, just to be clear), Chandler's task has not been an easy one.
Chandler's stats aren't too impressive through 35 games this season, but it's the team stats that need to be looked at. This year the Knicks are conceding only 94.1 points per game and, compared to last year's average of 105.7, that's an improvement of 11.6 points. To give you an idea of just how big a difference that is, the Minnesota Timberwolves are the only team to have a larger swing in points allowed per game between the last two seasons, with a change of 12.1 on average.
Going back to Chandler's stats, his lack of blocks can simply be attributed to the fact that players aren't willing to inside on the Knicks knowing that Chandler is there to stop them. Chandler's win score, a measure of how valuable each his statistics are, is 12.01, good for a top 5 position in the NBA. Of course, the win score also includes his offensive statistics, but it also factors in his blocks, rebounds and steals.
To delve any further into looking at Chandler's defensive value, you simply need to watch the Knicks play. Stats only show so much, and what they won't necessarily say is that Chandler, along with the help of Mike Woodson, has completely changed the attitude in New York.
Outside of Chandler, there really aren't many better defensive players in the league. Dwight Howard is the obvious candidate once again to bring home the Defensive Player of the year Award, but if the voters decide to go in a different direction, don't be surprised if our man Chandler wins it. Considering the negative effect Howard has had on his team in terms of trade talk and his attitude towards teammates, one could argue that Chandler has even been better than Howard as far as their individual teams are concerned. Besides, when you brush aside individual statistics, the Knicks actually have a better defensive efficiency than Orlando (97.2 compared to 98.5) and their opponent's turnover rate is higher than Orlando's as well, as the Knicks rank second in the NBA in that category with 16.47.
Any way you look at it, Chandler certainly has to be in the discussion, but his performance in the second half will determine whether or not he'll eventually win the award.
What do you think, fanatics? If the season ended today would Chandler be your Defensive Player of the Year?
All stats are from ESPN and Hoopdata