Tyson Chandler wasn’t content to be any team’s backup plan. While the Mavericks and Clippers vied for the services of DeAndre Jordan, Chandler, who had been a reported possibility for both teams, agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Suns.
Both parties found a smart fit in their opportunism. Phoenix had previously run a patchwork center rotation based on short-term competence and long-term prospecting. Chandler gives the Suns their best option at that position in years—an outstanding pick-and-roll target and master of defensive positioning. His addition brings backbone and basketball intelligence to a team that could use a bit of both, not to mention a clear upgrade in terms of basic defense, rebounding, and finishing ability.
Chandler, for his part, gets the security of a four-year deal from a market wary of his injury history. This is the second time that Dallas has let Chandler walk in free agency despite much admiration for him and his contributions. It’s the trouble of pricing out Chandler’s value over the course of a multi-year deal that seems to give the Mavericks pause and, in this case, their preference for the younger, more durable Jordan. In this latest round of free agency, Chandler found a team willing to commit to him through his 36th birthday that just so happens to play an amenable style and has a top-notch training and medical staff. This is as good a place as any for Chandler to compete while aiming to extend his career.
His signing was also a calculated move on the part of a player and team to set up the courtship of LaMarcus Aldridge. By agreeing to terms with Chandler quickly, the Suns were able to use their new starting center as part of the meeting party for free-agent forward LaMarcus Aldridge. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported on Wednesday afternoon that Phoenix had pulled into legitimate contention for Aldridge based on the strength of that pitch. Aldridge, who historically has preferred playing alongside another traditional big, has never played with a center as effective as Chandler. If Phoenix has the means to acquire Aldridge (be it through cap space or a potential sign-and-trade with Portland) after signing Chandler, theirs is an offer worth considering.
Regardless, Chandler positions the Suns to be a better version of what they were. A mobile big of his mold should only augment what players like Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Markieff Morris already do best. There’s a distinct chance that Phoenix might have to stomach an overpay on the back end of this deal or survive another of Chandler’s injuries. That much is the cost of doing early-bird business to lure a quality free agent. Clearly, however, Phoenix trusts in its training staff and sees some give in its trim cap sheet that could accommodate Chandler at manageable risk.