I know that on the overall physical level, offense etc Dwight is the better player. He is the best center in the league. Some people will argue Bynum, but the crown is Howard's for now.
But, and I say this as a huge basketball stats guy who absolutely hates talk about chemistry and intangibles and blah blah blah...Tyson gives me more confidence in a championship, with this Knicks team, than Howard. Flossy will think I am a nuthugging homer gone mad, but I shall make my case.
Defensive rating is a statistic used by basketball-reference.com to approximate the amount of points allowed per 100 possessions by a basketball team. Last season the Knicks had a defensive rating of 110.1, a number not too far from the defensive rating of the Orlando Magic in 03-04, the season just before acquiring Dwight Howard. This season, the Knicks' defensive rating is 100.3 (good for 4th best), a one-season improvement of 9.8, which is insane. By comparison, the acquisition of Howard improved Orlando's DRtg by 3.1. Of course Howard was a rookie then, and Chandler is a veteran...but the Knicks' defensive rating this season is still better than any that the Orlando Magic have posted in any season of the Dwight Howard era. It isn't all Chandler of course - I would ascribe a good chunk of improvement to Iman Shumpert as well as other personnel moves and the addition of Mike Woodson to the coaching staff, but Tyson has clearly been THE transformative presence on the defensive end and the anchor for the team on that half of the floor, especially considering the minutes that have gone to sub-par frontcourt defenders like Novak and Stoudemire. This is the job that Chandler some said was overpaid to do. Anyone who has seen the games can only honestly say that he has earned every penny (so far).
Of course, it's not all about the defense. On offense, Howard is superior to Chandler in almost every way (Free throws and FG% bitches!). It's easy to make the argument that if you switch Howard for Chandler, Orlando is gutter trash, and I would agree - Tyson Chandler, Big Baby, and 8 Steve Novaks is no way to build a roster. But their roster is built that way because Howard's particular offensive talents allow it to be, so under that standard almost any other player at the position would fall short.
Forget Orlando, however. Let's think about it from the flip-side. The Knicks do not need more offense, at least not coming from the post. This season the team's offensive rating has seen a large drop due to numerous factors including lack of PG and subpar offensive performance from the superstars, but the offensive side of the floor is (or should be) well-established with Carmelo and Amar'e - indeed, last season the team had the 7th best offensive rating in the league.
The addition of Dwight Howard on paper would greatly improve the offense, but in practice it does not always work out that way, as we are all well aware there are tangential problems of floor-spacing, shot usage, etc. You can't take away that he is a legit first option, but we have two of those already. With only one ball to shoot into the basket each additional "first option" gives diminishing returns. If Amar'e and Carmelo are playing up to their considerable abilities on offense, Howard's contribution becomes somewhat redundant. He will take shots from players who already convert highly efficiently. He also probably doesn't have the same.positive impact on the rest of the offense as he does in Orlando, with our relative lack of outside shooting. He is valuable still in terms of what he allows the team to do, but probably not as dramatic of an impact on overall team offense.
Chandler's contribution on offense as more of a secondary/supporting player has been nothing short of outstanding not only for his impeccable FG% but also his ability at setting screens/picks as well as his efforts on the offensive glass, an area where Chandler has consistently outplayed Howard for his career (not including the tip outs and other hustle plays Chandler gives you). He doesn't take away many shots from the primary options on offense, and the ones he does take he converts at a godly efficiency. He is a deadly weapon for any of the playmakers on the team who defenses must account for with savvy on-ball and PnR defense.
In my opinion, Chandler is simply a better fit for this team. He provides a hyper-efficient if limited offensive weapon that complements the players around him. His salary is of course less than Howard would demand on the free market, affording this team some cap flexibility it desperately needs. Tyson is 10x the leader that Howard will ever be, and the importance of his leadership should not be understated. It shows on defense where his instincts and communication skills improve the rest of the team, but it is especially important considering the egos we have on this roster, Forget Melodrama, could you imagine Dwightmare in NYC? Do we need the headache? We are talking about a team whose "best" player (Melo) may have shat a good portion of the season away effort-wise in order to get rid of a coach he disliked, and whose "second-best" (Amar'e) has been on and off with little to show for most of the season in terms of defensive presence, consistency, or leadership. In the city that never stops panicking, despite the adversity this team has faced and the losing and the media garbage, there has been one rock this entire season who has given 100% effort and support to his teammates every minute of every game, even when he is not on the floor. He is the first guy jumping off of the bench when Novak hits a 3, the first guy yelling at Shumpert when he throws down a monster dunk, the guy who jumps halfway across the court from the bench when Amar'e gets a big-time block.
We've seen the difference that that type of energy makes for a roster, especially when it is backed up with selfless, consistent, and essential play. We've all seen what happens when teams play with the same fire that comes naturally to him, and what happens when they don't. No, Tyson Chandler is not Dwight Howard - he is a New York Knick, and I would not have it any other way.