Wilson Chandler has started 32 games of the 36 in which he’s played for the Philadelphia 76ers this year, and to say that he’s the fifth option is mainly to say that five men exist on the basketball court at one time for each of the teams.
When Philadelphia acquired Chandler, Denver threw in a pair of second round picks in exchange for nothing but a cash payment and the Sixers’ willingness to take Chandler’s $12.8 million salary off their hands.
Chandler is an unrestricted free agent after this season, at which point he’ll either sign with some team on the cusp of a title for the veteran minimum and wave a towel to try and win a ring or he’ll fall into obscurity, never to be seen or heard from again, his 12-year career officially toast.
But in the meantime, let’s ask the simple question that sets the mythbusting bar fairly low:
Is Wilson Chandler capable of in any way assisting an NBA team as a starter?
We’re not going to factor his salary into it. That’s someone else’s problem (and this would be Busted straight off if we considered him at $12.8 million.)
The Counting Stats
Chandler is averaging 6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 26.4 minutes per game. That’s good for a sub-10-point per-36 average, which isn’t even good for a fifth scorer (Thaddeus Young is averaging 15.3 points per 36 for the Pacers and Darren Collison is at 12.9, to give some perspective.)
Chandler’s raw numbers are the lowest of his career, and per 36, they’ve fallen completely off a cliff.
And lest it be thought that he’s more efficient as a result of getting better shots after the defense looks to the Sixers’ other options…well…that makes things a bit more interesting.
Chandler is shooting 39 percent from three-point range and taking by far the highest percentage of his shots (57 percent, compared to 33.6 percent of his shots for his career coming from three-point land) from that far out.
Which, in turn, is giving him a .551 eFG%, by far the best of his career, and qualifying easily for the fifth-scoring-option “competent” label.
In a clogged toilet Sixers offense desperate for any kind of three-point production since Ben Simmons won’t even attempt them, never mind develop the ability to hit them, role players in the starting lineup who can spread the floor and make shots are essential.
The Advanced Stats
Still, Chandler does so little with the ball, even given his role, that his PER is an unbelievably horrific 9.2, the kind of number you expect either from a defensive specialist (the Bruce Bowen and Rafer Alston types in the NBA universe) or, alternately, from a guy who’s got no business being in the league at all.
At 0.7 for his Defensive Box Plus-Minus and 0.5 for his VORP…well, he’s no Bowen or Alston or Trevor Ariza, but we begin to see both how the Sixers are using Chandler and how he’s responding to that use.
His WS/48 sits below the Starter Mendoza Line (and indeed, Chandler has never cracked .100 in his entire career; his career mark of .070 is consistent with the caliber of player who starts on 30-win teams.)
What’s more troubling is a career-high turnover rate of 15.4, if you don’t count the eight games he played in 2012 (with a 17.6 TOV%). That wipes out any advantage you’re getting from a guy who’s supposed to be a catch-and-shoot wing.
The .561 TS% is a great career high, the shots he’s taking and making from beyond the arc are encouraging…but on balance, you can’t shake the feeling that if Thad Young is the gold standard for the workman’s wing forward, or even if Trevor Ariza is your standard, Chandler is a dollar store guy.
That’s right. Which means if we circle back to the original question, the Sixers got worse at the position they traded away (Chandler is a major downgrade from Saric), hoping (and for a large part succeeding) to make up for the weakness in one position by creating a strength in another in the person of Butler.
But it also means that Chandler, at the end of the season, is deadweight, as the Sixers could draft or trade for or promote a better stretch 4 who’s going to do more for them than Chandler does, come in a lot cheaper, and not be an injury-prone guy who’s over 30 and on the downside of his career.
And that also means…
A veteran like Chandler isn’t a total loss. He might still have value as a bench-scoring floor spacer and adequate second-unit defender making the veteran minimum on a good team.
But that’s not the question we asked. The one we asked is if he’s competent as the starter the Sixers have cast him as since the Saric trade.
And the answer to that is no. This one’s Busted. Wilson Chandler’s best days are behind him, and honestly, it’s not exactly a decided point that he was ever that good.
NEXT WEEK: Jeremy Lamb.