According to ESPN, Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum will be out indefinitely due to his knees no longer being "the same" as when he was traded by the Los Angeles Lakers. Up until this point, Bynum was widely considered to be the second-best center in the league behind Dwight Howard.
The absence of Bynum will obviously have its effect on the 76ers, and their opponents on a game-to-game basis, but it will also have a big impact on one game in particular: the NBA All-Star Game.
Every year since 2008, Dwight Howard has been the starting center for the Eastern Conference. Now that Howard plays in the Western Conference, there is finally an opening for the rest of the big men around the conference.
Bynum was expected to fill that spot, but that plan has fallen through. Now, the spot belongs to one man: Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks.
Realistically, the race for the slot will come down to five men: Chandler, Anderson Varejao, Chris Bosh, Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah. Noah's 13.7 points per game and 10.8 rebounds put him in the conversation, but his .478 shooting percentage combined with an 18.57 Player Efficiency Rating (a full four points lower than any of the other four men) quickly eliminates him from the race.
Varejao leads the NBA in rebounds with an absurd 15.2 per night, which should theoretically put him right at the top of the list. However, he is shooting an abysmal .492 percent from the field, and his team sits at 4-17 while the three remaining centers play on teams ranked in the top four of the conference.
Varejao has been a beast on the boards, but when it comes down to it, there are more deserving candidates.
And then there were three. Now, it gets tougher. Lopez is averaging 18.5 points per game and Bosh has 18.6, while Chandler has only 12.8. On rebounds though, Tyson has 10 per game while Bosh and Lopez have 7.9 and 6.8, respectively.
Chandler's numbers also doesn't take into account the countless times he has slapped a ball out from the paint to one of his guards. Lopez does have a PER of 23.26, which narrowly edges out Tyson's 23.23 and Bosh's 22.46, but his poor rebounding cannot be overlooked. Bosh, for his part, is in reality a power forward but has to play bigger due to the Heat's lack of depth at center.
In the end, the difference is made in two categories. The first is field goal percentage. Through twenty games, Chandler has made .709 percent of the shots he has attempted. Last month, he became only the second player behind Wilt Chamberlain to ever have multiple months shooting over 70 percent from the field while taking a minimum of 75 shots.
On their end, Lopez and Bosh are tied, thus far this year, at .534 percent shooting.
The second, and likely more important factor, is defensive presence and importance. Tyson is the anchor of an otherwise small Knicks team that is currently ranked second in the NBA.
The defensive intensity he has brought to the Knicks has been crucial, as recognized by his designation as Defensive Player of the Year last season.
The bottom line is the Knicks are ranked first in the East, and Chandler is a huge part of that success. He has been effective on both ends of the floor and is a vocal leader 48 minutes per game.
He is the most deserving center in the East to be starter come February 17th, 2013.
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