Wilson Chandler
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The Brooklyn Nets made a series of upgrades this offseason. Wilson Chandler could become the enforcer to this exciting title contender.

Matt Brooks

For NBA general managers, building a playoff roster is similar to constructing a 3,000-piece LEGO set: each individual piece must be assembled perfectly to form the final product. Except, in this scenario, there are no detailed instructions to guide the way. In fact, there isn’t even a colorful picture on the box cover to model after. Instead, general managers are on the clock to construct a winner with no exceptions and very little guidance.

Last season, Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks climbed that unsurmountable mountain and curated playoff magic on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic. To his credit, he was dealt a more difficult hand than most. With no first-round picks and no star players of note, Marks took a job that many deemed to be the “worst in the league.” Yet the Kiwi executive completed his rebuild faster than most college students graduate university; the Nets finished as the 6th seed in just year three of the Marks era.

“Culture” has become a sticking point here at Nets Nation — it’s what drew in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But it’s more than just a marketing scheme or a cutesy buzzword. It’s a way of life for the franchise in Brooklyn. Marks has made it a priority to sign high-character guys who believe in the greater good of the team.

This summer, Marks found a way to continue his winning formula and upgrade some individual parts. Miraculously, the Nets brought aboard two All-NBA talents without completely gutting the team. All of the young core pillars — Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie — are still in place after last season’s surprising run. Looking down the roster, Marks made a series of subtle upgrades.

Garrett Temple will step in for Allen Crabbe as a three-and-D swingman (except, you know, he might actually stay on the floor). DeAndre Jordan could replace Ed Davis‘ screen-setting and hunger for rebounds. He also comes with a great deal of experience as one of the league’s former elites in rim-running — making him an A++ mentor to Jarrett Allen.

Taurean Prince resembles a younger DeMarre Carroll. Even David Nwaba, a defensive non-shooter, is the iOS 12.5 version of Treveon Graham.

Each of Marks’ hand-picked selections will play specific interchangeable roles to the 2020 Nets. However, one of Brooklyn’s summer signings went fairly under the radar.

On July 2nd, per Yahoo SportsChris Haynes, SF/PF Wilson Chandler signed a 1-year, $2.56 million deal with the Nets. At first glance, it seemed like the classic case of a veteran player latching onto a title contender before retirement. However, like all of Sean Marks’ moves, there’s more intent than meets the eye.

Last season, Chandler averaged a career-low 6.0 points, as well as his lowest average in minutes (23.1) and rebounds (4.2) since his rookie season.

He began his 2018-2019 campaign as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. To Chandler’s credit, he was pretty solid, sporting a tasty 44/39/72.2 shooting split. Those impressive Philly numbers might be slightly inflated, though; Chandler is a spotty 34.3% three-point shooter throughout his career.

In February, Chandler was dealt to the supremely deep LA Clippers during the Tobias Harris blockbuster.

Simply put, Chandler floundered in LA, averaging 4.3 points on 34.8% from the field in just 15.1 minutes per game.

Whether Chandler can rehabilitate his career under the tutelage of Kenny Atkinson remains to be seen. The Nets careful distribution of minutes has worked wonders for multiple veterans in the past (see: the resurrection of DeMarre Carroll’s career). While he may never return to his Denver Nuggets-era 2-way dominance, Chandler could breathe new air at the Barclays Center.

Even amidst a down year, Chandler still was a net positive on the floor, producing a +4.2 net-rating. Chandler may have lost a step or two as a defender but his mind is just as active as ever. Positionally speaking, he knows exactly where to be on defense, which will be an important attribute to this still-young Nets team.

At 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Chandler is huge for a wing player. His size alone boosts his rebound totals; the man is built to box-out. This highlight tape from last April gives you a pretty clear idea of who Chandler is as an offensive player: a good-not-great outside shooter who grabs boards like free money.

 

His role extends beyond decent 3-and-D contribution. Wilson Chandler may be the replacement to beloved 2019 Net, Jared Dudley.

Jared Dudley was arguably one of Brooklyn’s most important players even if the stats didn’t show it. While his three-point percentage cratered, Dudley galvanized the young Nets with veteran machismo.

During the postseason, Dudley dissolved Ben Simmons‘ transition-game like a world-renowned chemist. He also made the statement play of the series. When Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid took an unnecessary swipe at Jarrett Allen, Dudley met the 7-foot-2 center with a shove for the ages.

It was the ultimate enforcer move — perhaps the most memorable New York “tough guy” moment since the days of Charles Oakley. It was also one of the many special moments from the 2019 Nets that seemed downright irreplaceable… until now. Wilson Chandler has the opportunity to become Brooklyn’s new bully.

If I had to make a list of NBA guys I wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley, Wilson Chandler might take spots 1, 2, and 3. Just last season, Chandler ran up on a heckling Dubs fan during one of his last games as a Clipper.

To be clear, Chandler’s list of altercations isn’t as long as one would expect. For the most part, he’s been a level-headed professional. But being an enforcer is not the same thing as being a hot-headed. To truly fit the role, an enforcer’s intentions must be in support of his teammates. This is where Chandler stands out as the perfect cast for the role. He’s the type of guy who will do whatever it takes to support the guys around him. When I say whatever, I’m not being hyperbolic. I mean whatever.

Wilson Chandler is known for his giving personality (see: NBC Sports’ Serena Williams’ touching story regarding Levi Payne), and it appears his charitable attitude is already making an impact in Brooklyn. Recently, he offered his new teammate, Taurean Prince, the number from his Denver heyday as the ultimate sign of respect. Reminder: this relationship is young — the two have yet to appear in training camp together. Already, it appears as if Chandler is buying into what Brooklyn is building: culture.

After last season’s success, the Nets built rivalries with multiple conference rivals.

The crosstown battle between the Nets and New York Knicks has never been hotter; Brooklyn ripped away the Durant-Irving core from James Dolan’s grasp. Boston Celtics meetups could become bloodbaths given the, erm, dark history between Brooklyn’s star point guard and his former team.

Best of all is the continuing rivalry with the Philadelphia 76ers — the team that sent Chandler packing for the third time in two seasons. Lord knows that had to sting a little bit.

In a perfect world, we enjoy a rewind of that glorious David vs. Goliath moment from last season between Joel Embiid and Jared Dudley. Except in JD’s place, it’s Wilson Chandler’s massive frame careening towards Philly’s stars like a battering ram in an all-out scruffle.

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