Tyson Chandler and The Mavericks Are “So Far Apart”

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In late June, after the title, the Mavericks had a period when they could have negotiated a new contract with you before the lockout. What happened?

We talked about getting something done before the lockout, but it just didn’t happen. … we were so far apart, we might as well not have even met.

via ESPN True Hoop: Tyson Chandler, speaking freely

I’ll be honest: I’m tired of talking about the lockout, and I bet many of you are as well. So, for this article, let’s pretend the lockout doesn’t exist. We’re in Tyson Chandler’s Contract Discussion World now.

This is just a one-question snippet from an interview Henry Abbott did with Chandler. The two don’t really delve into the issue much more after this question, but Chandler’s answer is rather telling of the wide variation that exists when estimating his value. When you play a key role on a championship team, this type of thing is bound to happen (just ask J.J. Barea and the team that inevitably gives him a 5 year, $45 million contract).

It’s impossible to know how “low” Dallas’s idea of Chandler’s salary might have been and how high in turn Chandler’s estimation was, but it still remains indicative of the odd contract situation that’ll face Chandler and the Mavericks before next season (whenever that is). It’s a negotiating process, so the two sides are bound to start with extremes so as to work out a beneficial agreement, but I think this problem will present itself regarding Chandler for many teams that pursue him. How much exactly are the basketball talents of Tyson Chandler worth? Before this season, he’s been frequently injured.

Of course, Chandler was a force defensively this season, arguably the second-best defender at that position behind Dwight Howard. Without Chandler’s terrific defensive anchoring and competent offense, it’s very unlikely that the Mavericks would have won the 2011 championship. Last year, Chandler had a career year in numerous aspects. His PER was a career-high 18.4, and he also boasted the best offensive rebounding rate, turnover rate, shooting percentage, and free throw shooting percentage of his career. You’d be hard pressed to find a GM that would complain about 13.1 PPG, 12.1 RPG, and 65.4% shooting (all stats per 36 minutes), along with stellar defense, from their starting center. No one will really argue that the skills Chandler provided during this past season weren’t worthy of a sizable contract. The only question that remains is his longevity. He’s not especially old yet at the age of 28, but he’s old enough to where giving him a long term, expensive contract would be a semi-questionable move (certainly not on the level of giving Brendan Haywood a 6 year, $55 million contract, of course).

Dallas, a team possessing a structure in which Tyson Chandler has clearly shown he can fit, doesn’t have a ton of cap space entering next season, and they could have even less going forward under hypothetical new CBA rules (See: aforementioned Brendan Haywood contract). They’re going to find themselves in a conundrum, with the necessity of having Tyson Chandler on the team (and they certainly will need him or a similar player in order to make use of the contention years they have left) and the realities of the contract he could command. The current NBA is center-starved, and a good center is more valuable than a good player at any other position. If the Mavericks wish to compromise with Chandler to a decent extent, they’ll be forced to possibly pass up on some younger players.

Let’s enter back into the world of the lockout, because we have no choice. Imagine, for a second (though I know you don’t want to), that we don’t have an NBA season at all. Going into the 2012 season, Tyson Chandler will be 30 years old (his birthday is October 2nd, 1982), with a history of injuries. He’ll still presumably want a sizable contract, and the Mavericks (or any other team) will likely be forced to acquiesce to some degree because of the competition for high-caliber centers. The Mavericks will be forced to make a decision, one that could turn the direction of the franchise. Do they take a chance on Chandler, a player who had great success with the organization but is aging, or do they instead seek out a less risky (likely less able) center? I expect them to vigorously pursue Chandler with the intent of signing him and hoping to continue to contend for titles in the near future, but at what point will the price be too high?

If the new CBA does indeed significantly lower the cap (and possibly institute some form of a hard cap), mistakes will be less easy to move past for teams, even ones that spend copiously like the Mavericks. The team wants Tyson Chandler, and it seems that Tyson Chandler would also like to stay with the Mavericks. But just like any business transaction, an agreement on price will be the driving point of discussion. If the two parties can arrive at a palatable price, the Mavericks will be eager to keep Chandler and make another run at a championship.

Seth Carstens