Knicks' Wilson Chandler in the Race for NBA Sixth Man, but Can He Bring It Home?

Allen KimSenior Analyst INovember 10, 2010

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Wilson Chandler #21 of the New York Knicks walks to the bench against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 19, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Through the first six games of the season, Wilson Chandler has had his ups and downs as the New York Knicks' sixth man. He excelled in the first three games of the season, averaging 21.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 3.0 blocks, but has since come back down to Earth.

In his last four outings, Wilson put up 11.5 points on 40.9 percent shooting, grabbed 4.3 rebounds and recorded 1.4 steals plus blocks.

Let's just say he has been part Jekyll, part Hyde in the early going of the NBA season.

Even with his recent struggles, Wilson is still averaging career highs in points, rebounds, steals, threes and blocks. This may just be a small sample size, but he has surpassed expectations to start the season, and he's in the discussion to take home the NBA Sixth Man Award.

Wilson's versatility on the defensive end has been remarkable early on. His ability to effectively defend anyone from the two to the four make him invaluable as a defensive stopper. He's long and athletic, while his strong defensive abilities have been evident with impressive season averages—he's second on the team in rebounding and blocks, and fourth in steals.

"Will the Thrill" is the Knicks' best perimeter defender, with his long wingspan and keen instincts makes him one of the premier shot-blockers at the wing position in the NBA. Chandler's ability to turn shots away have been a tremendous boost to the Knicks' defense.

Opposing teams had little trouble converting on layups and dunks last season. However, this year, the Knicks have been one of the best at limiting successful shot attempts near the rim.

The Knicks' league-leading 8.0 blocks per game has been a major factor in elevating the their defensive efficiency from 27th overall last season to eighth this year. Chandler's steady source of blocks have accounted for nearly a quarter of the team's numbers.

Of course, even with all the rave reviews Wilson has received thus far, he still has several facets of his game that he needs to improve upon.

As a slasher, Chandler's ability to draw fouls is sub-par. For a player with a slightly above-average jumper, he needs to be able to get to the line more frequently if he wants improve on his effectiveness on the offensive end.

What's even worse is all the jumpers he takes from long-range. Chandler has never been efficient from behind the arc—he shoots a career percentage of 30.6 from deep—yet he attempts to channel his inner-Gallinari, on average, 4.7 times a game. This has hurt his shooting percentage immensely as he's dipped to 43.3 percent from the field this season.

Josh Smith is a prime example for Wilson to model his game off of in terms of altering his offense. In the four seasons prior to last year, Josh attempted, on average, 112 three-pointers a season,and only shot an abysmal 27.5 percent.

In that same span, Josh has been gradually lowering his shots from behind the arc and bottomed out at only seven total attempts last season. In turn, Josh recorded the highest field goal percentage of his career, and he put together arguably the most efficient and well-rounded season in his seven years in the league.

With Anthony Randolph being slowly integrated into the rotation, Toney Douglas emerging off the bench as instant offense, and Bill Walker and Landry Fields vying for minutes, it wouldn't be surprising to see Chandler's inconsistency continue. His minutes have dropped from 33 in October, to just under 22 for the month of November.

If Wilson can curb his trigger finger from deep and take higher percentage shots closer to the rim, he should find some stability in the rotation. This should also put him back on top of the race for Sixth Man of the Year.