Tyson Chandler has come a long way. Originally drafted by the Bulls in 2001, Chandler came directly out of high school and was teamed with Eddy Curry, another big man coming straight out of high school.
The Bulls thought they had locked down a couple of can’t miss future studs for years to come. But the Bulls didn’t develop either player properly and if anything stunted both players development, or in Curry’s situation, never developed at all. For Chandler, it’s like they never knew what they wanted out of him and when they did, they would ultimately change course again. Initially they didn’t want him to be a scorer, but more of any energy type player in a rough post-Rodman era. Then they wanted him to score. Then, he got hurt, was branded a “tweener” and got shipped out of town.
But how did they really expect him to develop at all? Until he left Chicago he never got any consistent minutes. In five years as a Bull, he only averaged 24.1 minutes per game. Chandler was in foul trouble a lot during his time in Chicago, like a kid with so much energy in his body he didn’t know what to do with it because he never had any consistent coaching. He was at a complete disadvantage considering he had three different full time coaches during his tenure in Chicago (Tim Floyd (ouch), Bill Cartwright, Scott Skiles) and two additional interim coaches (Bill Berry and Pete Myers). The Bulls organization was in a state of upheaval after winning six titles in eight years and really had no direction as a whole. And as a result, the early part of Chandler’s career was marred by inconsistency.
The best thing that ever happened to Chandler was getting traded out of Chicago which happened in 2006. The next year playing for the New Orleans Hornets, he had the best numbers of his career and shook the “Bust” label a term which is usually only reserved for NFL players that don’t pan out. He played the highest minutes of his career (34.6) and not surprisingly his numbers across the board increased; he averaged 9.5 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg, all career highs as well. The following year Chandler averaged a double-double for the first time in his career (11.8 ppg, 11.7 rpg) and led the league in offensive rebounding as the Hornets won the Southwest Division for the first time ever, won a series but eventually lost a tough seven game series to the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals. In three years as a Hornet, Chandler averaged 10.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg and 1.4 bpg and erased the memory of his struggles in Chicago for most NBA fans.
After spending a year in Charlotte, Chandler was traded to the Mavericks prior to the 2011 season and was exactly what the team needed to put them over the top as a championship squad. Statistically he had a decent Finals (9.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg), great by his standards in Chicago, but what he really gave the Mavs in the Finals can’t be quantified by numbers. How many rebounds did he tap out at the end of games to prolong offensive possessions? How many shots did he alter to the point where they were essentially blocked? The Heat had no answer for his length and athleticism defensively and that’s where Chandler made his mark at critical moments during the NBA Finals.
It took 10 years, but Chandler developed into what the Bulls envisioned; even if they didn’t know how to get him there.