There seems to be a perception that Knicks center Tyson Chandler stumbled into winning the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award last season -- the first time in three years it went to a player not named Dwight Howard.
The reasoning is simple and it's completely flawed: Howard had better individual statistics than Chandler.
In his final season with the Orlando Magic, Howard had more rebounds (14.5 per game to 9.9) and blocks (2.15 to 1.44) in an injury shortened 2011-2012 campaign, and on Monday he told reporters that he deserved the award.
"I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you," Howard said after the Los Angeles Lakers' practice on Monday, [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]. "I was a little bit upset about that."
Howard believes his wavering trade demands and alleged involvement in coach Stan Van Gundy's dismissal ultimately played a factor.
"I felt like I did my job to win it," he continued. "I also feel like I didn't because of the whole situation."
Howard could be right. Voters may have felt Van Gundy was honest when he told the media that his center was trying to get him out of the picture in Orlando and it's not a stretch to think they took it out on Howard, who ultimately finished third behind Chandler and Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka.
But even if the voters did it for the wrong reasons, they were right to give the award to Chandler, who completely revitalized New York's defense.
New York ranked 21st in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) before Chandler's arrival, but his presence created a domino effect where perimeter defenders were able to take more risks because they knew they had an athletic 7-1 center behind them. The Knicks were fifth in defensive efficiency last season and even ranked first in the NBA in points in the paint allowed one year after finishing 28th in that category.
Meanwhile, Orlando's defense went in the opposite direction. The Magic tied for 13th in defensive efficiency after ranking third in that category in 2010-2011, when they allowed a league-low 32.2 ppg in the paint. That figure ticked up to 34.4 ppg in the paint last season, as did opponents interior field goal percentage (45.8 in '10-'11 up to 47.2 in '11-'12).
Finally -- and this is a personal pet peeve -- is that in crediting Howard for having more rebounds than anyone, we're including offensive rebounds. This isn't of particular importance in this case because Howard led the league in defensive rebounds (10.8 per game), but why do we insist on including offensive rebounds in the DPOY voting? That always struck me as odd.
In the end, Howard might be justified to think that the media circus in Orlando -- as well as his back injury -- cost him the award. But anyone who saw the Knicks transform from one of the league's worst defensive teams into one of its best knows where the credit belongs. Yes, coach Mike Woodson and combo guard Iman Shumpert had a role in that, but their contributions would have never been possible without Chandler.
Someone tell Dwight to go to the Knicks Magic game footage and watch how Tyson dominated him