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Let’s Talk About Wilson Chandler

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After starting in seven games, the return has been ... meh.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media Day Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018-2019 Philadelphia 76ers season has been weird. Yes, the team is 14-8 — good for third in the Eastern Conference at the time of this post. Yes, the team has two NBA All-Stars (Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler) with a third on the way (Ben Simmons) — provided he doesn’t get hosed for a spot like he did last year.

(Yes. I’m still VERY sore about Goran Dragic getting that spot as we all still should be.)

There are a lot of new pieces to this team, one of whom is Wilson Chandler. As good of a trade as I thought it was back in July, the 6’8” former Nuggets wing has been kind of invisible so far. Is that concerning to anyone else?

The Sixers acquired Chandler about a week after the draft for a 2021 second round pick and the rights to swap second round picks in 2022. (Sixers Twitter grins gleefully at the thought of picks swapping, by the way.)

At the time, the move could have been seen as a precursor to trade for Kawhi Leonard. The Sixers lost out on LeBron James (to Los Angeles) and Paul George (stayed in Oklahoma City for some reason). After much sweating and blind hope, however, Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan.

(*Sigh*)

That was a bit of a let down, so some reassessing of Chandler had to be done since he’d be here for the immediate future. The Sixers lost Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli to free agency – a point that is hashed and re-hashed frequently to my frustration – and Chandler (along with fellow newcomer via trade Mike Muscala) was turned into a kind of “new bench” with TJ McConnell, Landry Shamet, and Amir Johnson.

In a post by Tom West at the time of the trade, Chandler was described as “a wing who fits the team and strengthens the bench at both ends of the floor”. That should have been the case, but so far, we’re just not seeing it.

If grading had to be done right now after 11 games, Chandler’s mark would be about average, maybe below average. Chandler was hurt to start the season after suffering a hamstring injury in the pre-season opener. He’s started in seven games since Head Coach Brett Brown changed up the starting lineup after the Jimmy Butler trade.

On paper, a starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Butler, Chandler, JJ Redick, and Joel Embiid should be pretty balanced. There’s playmaking with Simmons, shot creators like Butler, an MVP caliber big in Embiid, and some long distance shooting with Redick and Chandler. (Chandler, of course, represents a lesser degree than Redick.)

For his career, Chandler is a 34.1% shooter from three while taking about four per game. He’s not Covington, but he’s not exactly Tony Allen, either. Chandler isn’t a total offensive liability. In the 11 games he’s played this season, Chandler is shooting 36% on two attempts per game.

“Okay, Adio. Maybe, he’s not the greatest offensively so far. What about his defense? Wasn’t he supposed to be a half-decent two-way wing either starting or off the bench?”

Yes, he was.

This part is more important now that he’s in the starting lineup. The Sixers starting lineup has Chandler playing the 4, but the Sixers switch everything on defense. He’s 6’8” with a near 7’ wingspan. With Butler, Simmons, and Embiid on the floor, that should be quite the obstacle for an opposing team’s offense to deal with … but it hasn’t been.

In a vacuum, Chandler’s numbers are okay. (Shrug) I guess.

With Chandler on the court, the Sixers eFG% is .583 with an ORtg of 124.5. When he’s off, that drops to .504 and 111.3. Here’s what I found weird doing analysis of Chandler. When he’s on the court, opponent ORtg is 120.7. When he’s off, that number drops to 111.0.

In fact, Chandler is one of three starters with a positive on/off opponents ORtg, meaning opponents ORtg is higher when that player is on the floor. Chandler, Simmons, and Butler all have positive differences. The two negatives: Joel Embiid and JJ Redick. (No, seriously. I looked that up. When JJ is on the floor opponent’s ORtg drops by 9.1.)

After 22 games, the Sixers allow 114.1 ppg and have a DRtg of 109.9. To put that in perspective, the team allowed 105.3 ppg and were fourth in the league in DRtg last year. Some of that could be caused by Lloyd Pierce’s departure to Atlanta. Some of it could be the many new parts having to learn how to play with one another.

There isn’t a simple fix to whatever this issue is.

Do you take Chandler out of the starting lineup?

If you do, who do you replace him with? Mike Muscala? That’s not a real option defensively. Muscala has never had a positive DBPM over 2.0, and it’s -1.0 this year. Offensively, it couldn’t hurt to have another shooter out there, but he’s been streaky lately:

  • 2/3 from deep against Phoenix (season high 19 pts) and New Orleans
  • 1/7 on Friday night against Cleveland
  • 0/4 Sunday against Brooklyn

Amir Johnson? That’s also not likely since putting Johnson out there pretty much means the Sixers are playing four on five on the offensive end of the floor. As much as I enjoy those weird looking Amir Johnson three pointers, I can only stomach so many in a given game. Johnson also isn’t really athletic, and if the Sixers continue to want to switch everything on defense, that makes him a liability on a bad switch. (Imagine Amir getting switched on to Kyrie Irving. Now, take that vision and burn it from your consciousness.)

If Jonah Bolden wasn’t injured, I would at least THINK about it. Bolden is more athletic on the defensive end, and he seems more comfortable shooting threes than Amir Johnson in the sense that Bolden doesn’t have a sandwich before shooting the ball. (Seriously, Amir Johnson three pointers seem like they go on, forever.)

The concern with starting Bolden is that it is a lot to ask of a rookie for a team with a desire to win the Eastern Conference this year.

There’s been conversation and a post by Eric Sidewater about maybe trading for Wizards forward Otto Porter, Jr. I happen to love that idea, but after trading Robert Covington and Dario Saric for Jimmy Butler, I wonder if the Sixers have the pieces to make that deal worth it for Washington.

In Eric’s piece on Porter, he outlined a Porter trade as such:

Sixers give:

  • M. Fultz
  • W. Chandler (salary matching)
  • 2019 PHI 1st
  • $2.6M Trade Exception
  • F. Korkmaz (trade filler)

Sixers receive:

  • Otto Porter
  • Tomas Satoransky

I would argue the Wizards MIGHT ask for that 2021 Miami pick first – to which I would answer “No thanks”. Eric also made note of Porter’s contract which is … not the best. (That’s the nicest way I can put that.)

Let’s say the Sixers don’t pull the trigger on an Otto Porter deal. What then?

At that point, all Sixers Nation can do is sit on the team we have and hope there’s some turnaround defensively, where the Sixers’ numbers have taken a bit of a dive from last year. Hope that Chandler works into this new role as a starting wing – something he did for 70+ games last year. It’s a new team with new parts, and he’s only started seven games. Hope and staying positive is something this fan base has become accustomed to since the arrival of Sam Hinkie. I’m just not sure how much of that positive thinking has been spent. Is there anything left in the tank, or if have we gone through the tank and most of the reserves?