Sorry Oklahoma City, but the Denver Nuggets are not interested in trading Wilson Chandler. It was reported last week by multiple outlets that the Thunder, as well as several other teams, are interested in Denver's skilled Small Forward. Fortunately for Nuggets fans, the front office isn't interested in trading him. At least, I don't think they are interested in trading him. Oh god, I hope they aren't interested in trading him! He's one of the most underrated players in the entire league. He's one of the few guys on our team that fit on a championship roster. What could Oklahoma City possibly offer that would be better than Wilson Chandler? Jeremy Lamb and a 2nd round draft pick?
It's not a surprise that Chandler has garnered interest from teams around the league. He has a couple of elite NBA skills, most notably, catch and shoot 3-point shooting. Last season he ranked 13th in catch and shoot points per game. He is ranked 12th so far this season and 6th in catch and shoot 3FGM per game. The ability to space the floor by having a catch and shoot 3-point scorer is absolutely essential for success in the modern NBA. It's among the top three or four most important skills in the NBA. So far this season, six of the top eight teams in catch and shoot 3-pointers made per game are Western Conference playoff teams. The other two teams are the Atlanta Hawks, who are currently 2nd in the East, and the Phoenix Suns, who are currently 9th in the West. The collective record of those teams is 153-64 (.702).
The Nuggets rank 9th in the category and Chandler is a big reason why. Catch and shoot 3FGA make up 42.6% of his total field goal attempts and he is making 39% of those shots. That comes out to an average of 1.28 points per shot. His numbers also increase along with the more space that he gets. He is shooting 46.3% from beyond the arc with 6 ft of space or more. He is shooting 40.5% beyond the arc with 4-6 ft of space. Basically, if teams leave him open and the Nuggets are able to find him, he'll score with incredible efficiency.
Chandler is also elite at another, less quantifiable skill: his willingness to play within himself. Some fans have been critical of Chandler for his inability to score in difficult circumstances and his seeming unwillingness to take difficult shots. But scoring in isolation really isn't his game. What's impressive is that Chandler understands this and he rarely looks to force the offense if it isn't there. The Detroit Pistons just paid Josh Smith $28 million to NOT play for them, in large part because he doesn't possess this skill. Where Josh Smith routinely takes shots that he is not good at, Chandler loves taking shots that he knows he should take and strongly prefers to pass up everything else.
So far this season, due to both injuries to the roster and an offensive system that has been less than ideal a bit too frequently, Chandler has been forced to take a more aggressive role. The percentage of Chandler's FGA that are assisted have gone down under head coach Brian Shaw, as has the rate at which he has taken corner threes and shots at the rim. Conversely, the rate at which he is taking less efficient shots like mid range and long range 2-point shots has gone up over the last two seasons. This is probably a function of the offense and the circumstances that Chandler has been given under Shaw. Injuries to key playmakers like Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson and Randy Foye, have forced Chandler to attempt to create offense for himself and for others. Chandler isn't terrible at taking on the role of playmaker, but he isn't great at it either. He's better thought of as a guy who can make plays when his number is called, rather than a guy that you call on to create offense on a regular basis.
Those two elite skills, catch and shoot 3-point shooting and the willingness to play within himself, make Chandler the type of player every championship contender needs. He is average or above as a defender, rebounder, screener, cutter and many of the other small nuances of the game. He probably won't be the 2nd best or even 3rd best player on a championship contender, but he seems to understand that. At just $6.5 million this season and next, and at just 27 years old, Chandler has a lot of value. 3-point shooters like Kyle Korver, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Kevin Martin have all been able to maintain their 3-point touch well into their 30's and I suspect that Chandler will follow a similar path and continue to be effective for years to come.
The Nuggets don't currently have the roster to take full advantage of Chandler and because of that it is entirely possible that the Nuggets look to move him for draft picks and young talent. It's not a surprise that teams are lining up to try and swindle him from us for draft picks and under achieving prospects. I, for one, just hope that the front office is letting those offers fall on deaf ears.