(J Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com)
Latest Laker: Tyson Chandler
The Lakers added some needed depth at the center rotation by signing 7-foot-1 veteran Tyson Chandler on Tuesday.
The big man — who said he picked L.A. among about five teams — joins the Lakers after having his contract bought out by Phoenix.
Chandler’s game bears some resemblance to starting center JaVale McGee, as both men pride themselves on above-the-rim scoring, rebounding and defense.
Though the 36-year-old has seen his minutes and production decline after nearly two decades in the NBA, he is still an explosive leaper who feasts on lobs.
Last season, he shot 38-of-58 out of pick-and-rolls in 46 games for the Suns, ranking in the NBA’s 86th percentile as a roll man (1.28 points per possession).
He should be a natural fit among maestro ball handlers like Rajon Rondo and LeBron James.
“All I’ve been thinking about is all the incredible playmakers on the team,” Chandler said.
The Lakers received an in-person look at this facet of his skill set on Oct. 24, when he had 14 points and 11 rebounds in only 14 minutes, mainly by attacking off the roll.
Chandler — who owns the third-best career field goal percentage in NBA history (59.58) — never strays far from the basket, instead hunting around the rim for cuts, put-backs and lobs.
Across this year and last, only eight of his 199 shot attempts came outside of the restricted area.
Chandler averaged 3.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in only 12.7 minutes for the Suns this season, ranking second on the team in boards despite receiving the 10th-most playing time.
And though he has logged 18 years of NBA experience, Chandler still has enough bounce to battle on the glass multiple times in a possession.
The biggest question mark will be how much Chandler can offer the Lakers defensively, considering he didn’t have much assistance on a Phoenix team that ranked among the NBA’s bottom three in defensive rating in back-to-back years.
Unlike McGee, Chandler shouldn’t be expected to rack up eye-popping numbers, as he has two steals and one block in 89 minutes this season — after averaging 0.3 swipes and 0.6 swats last year.
Instead, the impact will be determined by whether Chandler — a classic drop-back center armed with a 7-foot-3 wingspan — can alter enough shots at the rim to make life difficult for opposing offenses.
Chandler joins the Lakers with a reputation as one of the league’s most beloved teammates. LeBron James — who played alongside Chandler for the 2012 United States Olympic team — approves of what he brings to the squad.
“I love the fact that we're going to get another veteran,” James said after Saturday’s win over Portland. “A guy who plays hard, and a guy who's very smart, and another championship to add to the champions that we have. … That adds depth in our frontcourt, which we've had trouble with at times.”
While McGee has been outstanding for the Lakers this season, the backup center position has been a revolving door.
Ivica Zubac, Johnathan Williams and Kyle Kuzma (in small-ball lineups) have all received time at the 5-position to varying results. Adding Chandler gives the Lakers a known commodity in that role.
The former second-overall pick has enjoyed a decorated career. From 2011-13, he earned the titles of: NBA champion; Defensive Player of the Year; Third Team All-NBA; Olympic gold medalist; NBA all-star; and First Team All-Defensive.
Five years later, Chandler is in the twilight of his career, but still can fill an important role for the Lakers, who rank just 23rd in defensive rating and 24th in rebound differential.
A local legend at Compton’s Dominguez High, Chandler has returned to L.A. with a mission to use his skill set and experience to help his hometown Lakers in areas of need.
“My family have always been Lakers fans,” Chandler said. “Even with me in the league, it’s always a conflict of interest when I come into town — and a lot of my family don’t choose my team.”