From Part I: The Philadelphia 76ers had a relatively underwhelming offseason by some standards. Not one member of the elite small forward triumvirate of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are preparing to play ball for the Sixers this season. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of new faces in Philadelphia. While rookies Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet, Shake Milton and Jonah Bolden all hold more intrigue, veterans Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler project to be key parts of the bench mob with a role from the outset.
So, I’ve reached out to fans and writers of their former employers — the Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets — for some insight on each of these guys. Up first in this two-part installation is Muscala and I’ve called on Justin Hodges, the Site Leader for Atlanta Sports HQ and Assistant Editor for SB Nation’s A Sea of Blue, to be our tour guide.
For Part II, TJ McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA), Denver Nuggets editor and beat writer for Mile High Sports, provided his time and insight to give us an idea of what we can expect from Wilson Chandler.
What will the Nuggets miss most about Chandler on and off the court?
The Nuggets will miss the versatility that Chandler provided. Being that he stands 6 feet 9 inches and is a strong 225 pounds, he has the physical traits to defend four different positions and did so on most nights for the Denver Nuggets. He consistently drew the toughest defensive assignment on a night-to-night basis and it did not matter if it was Anthony Davis or Russell Westbrook. He also is a passable shooter from 3-point distance, being that he hit nearly 36 percent of his 246 attempted 3-pointers last season. He is a full-fledged ‘three-and-D’ style player that is so coveted in this era of basketball. Just as a cherry on top, Chandler is also a willing ball mover, which makes him an ideal offensive fit when surrounded by star-level talent. His 2.1 assists as the fifth option on offense may not seem incredibly high, but the ball rarely sticks when it gets into his hands.
When it comes to off the court, Chandler is laid back and stoic. For the Nuggets, that led to them developing a quiet locker room — something that Nuggets head coach Michael Malone is trying to change this season. Because of his stoic nature, Chandler developed a friendship with Nikola Jokic very quickly. While he may not be the type of leader that screams and yells, he did set a strong example in Denver as one of the few veterans on the team.
How do you think he fits in Philadelphia? What skills will prove most useful?
While he may not play the same amount of minutes as he did in Denver, Chandler brings a very versatile skill set on the wing which, considering the other upper-echelon teams the Eastern Conference, is a prerequisite if the 76ers have hopes to make it deep in the playoffs. Being able to deploy multiple wings in any given lineup without sacrificing spacing is the goal for most teams and Chandler will be able to do exactly that. The short of it is that Chandler fits in Philadelphia because he has such a malleable skill set that can be inserted into almost any lineup on any team. The Toronto Raptors and and Boston Celtics are stock full of 6-foot-8 wing players and now Philadelphia has another wing of its own.
What are some of his limitations as a player?
There are not any clear gaps in Chandler’s game, but he is aging and has had hip issues in the past. His mobility is not what it used to be, but his defensive IQ is high enough to help mitigate that issue. He is also not a consistent shooter. While he can get hot from time to time, he is much more of a streaky shooter than someone to rely on hitting shots from deep. He will have to be defended beyond the arc, but he will go through spells where his shot does not fall for long periods of time.
There have been rumors about Chandler’s motivation and effort level waffling in Denver. Any truth to that?
There is some truth to that, but Chandler’s time in Denver was rocky to say the least. He was one of the very few holdovers from the Nuggets 57-win team back in 2012-13. Coming from that point of view, I couldn’t imagine how tough it was to get through the Brian Shaw era of Nuggets history. By the time Michael Malone was hired, Chandler just seemed like he was ready for a fresh start. Unfortunately, after three years of hearing his name in trade talks, he was not moved until just this past offseason. Because of his frustrations, it did lead to his effort coming and going far too often than it should have.
How would you grade his perimeter and interior defense? Is he a capable switchy defender?
I would give his perimeter defense a C+ and his interior defense a B. After having hip surgery, Chandler is not the same fluid athlete. Now, he has to use positioning on the perimeter to make up for his lack of mobility. Down low, he can switch onto bigs and regularly defended players like Anthony Davis. He is a strong individual with the instincts to match. He can still switch across three of four positions depending on matchup, and he does so at a pretty high level.
How often did Denver use him as a small-ball four? Were they successful doing so? Can he play lots of minutes there or is he best suited at the three?
Chandler actually told me that he would rather play more as a small-ball four. It fits his skillset more and it usually leads to him attacking slower-footed defenders. He is absolutely better as a small-ball power forward in my opinion.