Kennedy Chandler and the Motion of the Ocean
In a 2022 world where size does matter, Tennessee point guard Kennedy Chandler is here to show that it isn't the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean.
The 2022 NBA Draft class is BIG. From the big men to the big wings, in 2022 size matters. This seems somewhat antithetical to the downsizing of the league, but take a quick glance at the top 10 of any updated mock draft and you may not find a single point guard on the list.
The traditional tiny playmaker of yesteryear that foreplays a team into their offensive set has become of nominal interest to NBA decision makers that sit atop the draft. They've seen the LaMelo, Luka, and Cade’s and what they really crave are an extra six inches from their initiator. As such, front offices are willing to swipe left on undersized guards. Jumbo playmakers offer the positional size and versatility to mold themselves to a variety of lineups that tiny guards just don’t provide. The 2022 draft is void of such players and as a consequence, NBA teams in need of point guard help will have to settle for guards of more modest size to become their team's offensive engine.
Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler has separated himself as the most point guardy of all the 2022 point guards. Chandler is barely 6’0” tall but sometimes it ain’t the size of the boat, it’s all about the motion of the ocean.
With Kennedy Chandler, the beautiful game that we love is all about pace.
Chandler is a blaze on the court and his speed is an integral part of his offensive identity, but his speed alone doesn’t make him special; there are plenty of fast players in the league, many of which don’t make it past their rookie contract. What makes Chandler’s speed so devastating is the control in which he uses it. Speed is a treacherous tool in the right hands, but if not properly honed it can lead to disaster. Both Lewis Taylor and I can drive a car, but if I sat in the driver seat of his Mercedes it would undoubtedly go south for me before I make the first turn.
Chandler knows when and how to turn on the jets and he uses varying speeds by accelerating and decelerating to lull the defender into situations they can’t recover from. When the right moment arises…BOOM! Chandler is already in the paint.
Chandler is deadly turning on the NOS blowing by defenders in open space, but he can be equally as impressive in more controlled half court scenarios where he uses his craft to operate out of pick and rolls. He’ll get low and then stand tall, change speed and directions, just manipulate a big man’s processing as he tries to figure out how to cover the two on one while on his heels.
One of the reasons I fell in love with fellow tiny guard Davion Mitchell last season was his start-stop ability. Mitchell could hit a quick burst, stop on a dime, and then hit another quick burst. Chandler has some of that too. Chandler doesn’t have quite the same top line speed as Davion, but he’s a smoother operator. Davion looked like he would put the car in park, while Chandler keeps the car in neutral before hitting the gas.
The body and ball control can also be ferocious. Chandler’s slow to fast gear shift combined with his ability to change directions so sharply often leaves defenders in the dust. And once he gets into the paint he uses crafty eye manipulation to set up teammates in prime position to finish dump offs and kick outs.
Chandler doesn’t need a ball screen or a defender giving him space to create blow bys or separation. He’s got a tight shifty handle, and he combines the combo moves with change of speed and change of direction to get paint touches. Guarding Chandler on an island can be like getting engulfed by a wave. One second you have the sand between your toes and the next you get submerged by the ocean. The unpredictability of the timing and direction of the waves crashing around you leave you gasping for air.
A word of advice for the d’ing up Kennedy Chandler…don’t fall asleep off the ball. Chandler finds himself in constant motion. He may curl off a stagger, he may hit you backdoor, he might even dust you off a quick pitch or DHO. The dude is always a threat to fool you with his pace of play.
These possessions are the encapsulation of all the different elements of pace that the 6’0” dynamo has in his bag. In the first clip Chandler starts out on the ball, makes a quick hit to his big, comes to receive the ball on a pitch, sharp change of direction, and then just toys with the helpless big. The second clip starts with Chandler at the logo, makes a quick hit to the big again, destroys Love on a little route at the line, comes off the hand off and smoothly drops off a pocket pass to the roller. Chef’s kiss.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Chandler’s game. Will the height end up an issue defensively at the next level? Is his shooting going to be consistent enough to punish guards that go under? We’ll gain a little bit better perspective when the schedule toughens up in conference play; but the one thing I don’t question is Chandler’s craft and understanding of the point guard spot. In a draft devoid of a standout lead playmaker, Chandler has every opportunity to ride the wave into the top 10.