No. 7 on Roundball Mining Company’s #NuggetsRank series is none other than Wilson Chandler. After coming to Denver in the winter of 2011, Chandler has spent much of his Nuggets career either sidelined due to injury or overseas. While many Nuggets fans love the versatility Chandler brings to the table, some feel his role on the team has been slipping ever since he arrived in Denver. But whatever side of the argument you fall on, there’s no denying that Chandler is one of the more talented players on the entire roster.
The fascinating thing about Wilson Chandler is, interestingly enough, the fact that there’s still so much about him we don’t understand. He’s a lot like the ocean. He’s visible. We can grasp the basics of who he is. But we still haven’t seen deepest aspects of his game — how he plays under pressure, through adversity and in the spotlight. He’s never really had the chance to do that in Denver. Most of the time he’s injured and when he’s not he’s stuck behind Danilo Gallinari, being short changed on minutes. This will be the third year Chandler dons a Nuggets uniform, yet he’s played less than 30 games over that period of time.
Chandler’s best stretch as a pro came in 2010 while still with the Knicks. In 51 games prior to the All-Star break he averaged roughly 16 points, six rebounds, two assists, 1.5 blocks and .7 steals per game. During that time he saw an average of 35 minutes per game — or, starter minutes. From October to December Chandler scored at least 20 points on more than 15 different occasions and in December alone he averaged 19 points per game. In fact, through the first three months of 2010-11 season while still with the Knicks, Chandler actually outperformed Gallinari when given about the same amount of court time.
The point is: Like any player in the NBA, Chandler is at his best when he’s getting a steady dose of heavy minutes. Those minutes, however, have evaded him while in Denver. This isn’t his fault, nor the fault of the coaches. Chandler simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough to establish himself as a critical cog in the rotation. If he ever does regain his health Denver will be a much more dangerous team, especially off the bench. Chandler’s defense, versatility and ability to score are integral parts of the Nuggets overall identity.
In the meantime, Chandler and his fans will do what they’ve done all along since his arrival in Denver: wait. Let’s just hope that this time, that wait pays off.