NBA Comparison: Is Knicks' Wilson Chandler Following in Joe Johnson's Footsteps?
With Donnie Walsh’s proclamation that the Knicks’ will re-sign Wilson Chandler this summer comes questions of what type of contract Chandler will command, and furthermore, if the Knicks could come away with both Chandler and Carmelo Anthony.
In pondering the amount of money Chandler is earning himself as he continues his breakout season, Marc Berman of the New York Post points out that Chandler is putting up similar numbers to the ones Joe Johnson recorded during his contract year with the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05.
Johnson parlayed his own breakout season into a $65 million, five year contract with the Atlanta Hawks. The two sides recently re-upped their union with an even more massive contract worth $124 million over six years.
While Chandler and Johnson are two entirely different players who may have different attributes, it cannot be ignored that their circumstances (Johnson then and Chandler now) are very similar.
Over his last two seasons in Phoenix, Johnson began to breakout offensively. In addition to shooting the lights out, he also displayed versatility in (then Suns’ coach) Mike D’Antoni’s offense, able to run the fast break as the point guard, or put the ball in the basket at either wing position.
Do Johnson’s role and/or credentials sound familiar, Knicks fans? If so, that is because they should when thinking about Wilson Chandler.
Chandler has demonstrated that same type of versatility this season the Knicks, able to play multiple positions to fill any role the team needs. A taller and more muscular player than Johnson, Chandler has been a more physical player on both ends of the floor (in lieu of Johnson’s floor-running abilities), grabbing more rebounds and swatting away more shots on defense.
Though he may be playing bigger for the Knicks in the post and on defense, that hasn’t stopped Chandler from developing a shooting stroke as sweet as a two-guard’s. His shooting percentages are higher than ever, with the three-point shot even more prominent in Chandler’s repertoire this season. He currently ranks in the top ten for three-point field goals made in the NBA.
While Johnson’s scoring was up from years before, it only peaked at 17.1 points per game during his final year in Phoenix. Many wondered if this was his maximum potential, or if his scoring was limited due to having to share the ball with Amar’e Stoudemire.
Johnson apparently wondered too, how much further his offense could peak. Craving to be a team’s number one option, Johnson signed with the Hawks, who were then in a major playoff-drought.
Four all-star selections and three playoff appearances later, Johnson has proven he could lead a team himself, and furthermore, that his offense had yet to be fully elevated in Phoenix.
Though both he and the Hawks are beginning to slow down this season, bolting to Atlanta following his success with the Suns proved to be highly beneficial for Johnson.
The Knicks may be in luck, as this where the similarities between Johnson and Chandler may begin to end. Though Johnson was a restricted free agent, just like Chandler is set to be, the Knicks appear more motivated to keep Chandler if he were to attempt to venture elsewhere.
Besides that, however, is the fact that Chandler’s elevated offense has also come with the elevated success of the Knicks.
Whether or not Chandler could lead a team on his own is all relative at this point, as the ceiling for his potential and success has seemingly been lifted as of late.
However, averaging just a shade under 18 points per game, Chandler’s scoring will to have its chance to increase, given the current absence (due to injury) of Danilo Gallinari. If he is meant to be a consistent 20 point per game scorer, Chandler can certainly accomplish that, even within the means of the Knicks’ offensive set.
Otherwise, however, Chandler will continue to be valued for the many other things he does for the Knicks. Truly an effective all-around player, his increased offense has been an added bonus.
Rewarding Chandler with a contract similar to the (first) one Johnson received in Atlanta could be equally as rewarding for the Knicks. While having a breakout season of his own, Chandler has proven again and again how important he is to the resurgence of his team.
As the NBA learned this past offseason, players are really valuing the idea of winning it all over being a team’s sole starring attraction these days.
For all those wondering how much more success the Phoenix Suns could have had if the team had retained Joe Johnson, they may soon find out in the case of Wilson Chandler and the Knicks.
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