The Knicks' season begins in fifteen days. (!!!) We couldn't possibly be more excited — finally, a Knicks team with barely an Isiah Thomas fingerprint on it! — so we'll be counting down the eleven most important Knicks twice a week until opening night on October 27. The best sign we can give you: Eddy Curry isn't among the eleven. Today: guard Wilson Chandler.
Wilson Chandler is one of those players for whom your desire to get excited exceeds your actual level of excitement. He looks like a basketball player: He's six-foot-eight, he's fast, he's strong, and he's theoretically versatile. You imagine him being able to guard big guards and small forwards, popping out to the wing for three-pointers and using his size advantage to post up against the smaller players presumably guarding him. The problem is that none of this happens all that often.
Chandler's status among the Knicks has been inflated over the last couple of years because he was one of the few players on the roster with legitimate, marketable potential. But it's arguable whether that potential has been reached, or will be. Chandler shoots too many three-pointers at too low of a rate, he drives the basket but doesn't draw fouls, and he's a shockingly poor rebounder. The Knicks supposedly tried to trade him to Portland for Rudy Fernandez, but the Blazers said no. Much of what is hoped for about Chandler is just talk.
Still: He is only 23 years old — he just turned 23 in May, actually — and the theory has been raised that once you surround him with better players, he'll feel less pressure to perform and thrive off the game of others. He's a complementary piece on a good team; if you don't ask him to be your first or second primary scorer — though he did score 15.3 points per game last year — he can be a valuable weapon, though probably off the bench, and probably as a small forward rather than a "shooting" guard.
So why do we have him so high? Because the Knicks are going to give him every opportunity to succeed: They need to either drive up his trade value (currently "lower than Rudy Fernandez") or find a spot on this team for him that works, to find out what, after all this, they have. He'll have a qualifying offer of $3,099,850 after this season, and then he'll be a free agent. Chandler has played too large a role for the Knicks the last few years, getting by on an occasional electric drive to the basket, masking inconsistent play across the board. With more talent around, he'll no longer be seen as so athletically exceptional. It's now time for Chandler to produce, every night. Because the Knicks, finally, no longer need him. He's not the lone hope anymore.