At the start of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers were spending less money on the center position than any other team in the league.
It was surprising the franchise that featured George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal was suddenly comfortable rolling with JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac as their only traditional centers on the roster.
The Lakers were convinced they could use Kyle Kuzma or Michael Beasley as small-ball centers, just as they had done with Julius Randle the season before. Former head coach Luke Walton and his coaching staff quickly discovered the points Kuzma was giving up on the defensive end weren’t being negated by the extra floor spacing and speed they had when going small — and the plan was scrapped.
Shortly thereafter, the Phoenix Suns decided to buy out Tyson Chandler, who quickly signed with the Lakers.
Initially, Chandler provided exactly what the Lakers needed: a veteran presence who could help rebound and on the defensive end. He set bone-crushing screens and kept possessions alive by back-tapping any rebound he couldn’t get two hands on. It wasn’t always pretty, but Chandler did the things necessary to win.
As the season wore on, however, Chandler began to slow down. At 36-years-old and with plenty of mileage, he could no longer explode to the rim to finish in the pick-and-roll, which used to be his specialty. Nagging injuries took their toll and were slow to heal because Father Time is cruel and unrelenting.
Chandler appeared in just three games total in March and April combined, unable to provide anything when the Lakers were in desperation mode and their playoff hopes were dwindling. On a veteran minimum deal, his contributions earlier in the season provided some value but the team certainly could have used more down the stretch.
Highlight Of The 2018-19 Lakers Season
Chandler skied to block Trae Young’s floater and secure the win for the Lakers.
The big question for Chandler isn’t whether or not he will be back with the Lakers next season, but instead whether he will be playing in the league at all. As a veteran, he still has a valuable role as a mentor and could probably play some spot minutes here and there, but the days of him being a true contributor appear to have gone.
If the Lakers decide that they want Chandler back on another minimum deal just to be a big body and set a good example then perhaps he sticks around, but it’s more likely they move to find another option in the middle.