Trying to predict Chandler Parsons’ future

Who’s the last rookie to unexpectedly grab a spot in his team’s starting rotation, play with the intelligence and aura of a 10-year veteran, and fail to show a single significant weakness in his game? Seriously, can you think of anybody? Before this season, had this player even existed?

This is barely the tip of the iceberg in describing how remarkable Chandler Parsons’ rookie year has been. He’s received public praise from Kobe Bryant (more on that later), assumed the role of Houston’s clutch shot-taker on more than one occasion (he’s shooting 40% from three-point line in the fourth quarter), and, in a strange, inconceivable way, might be the last player on Houston’s roster that Daryl Morey would be willing to part with.

Here’s where things get interesting. Chandler Parsons is 23-years-old. He can shoot, dribble, pass, rebound, defend, and make smart decisions with, at the very least, a B- grade. But what is his absolute limit? Can Parsons become an All-Star by following the Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala path? Is he athletic enough for that? Or because of his glue guy playing style, is what we’re seeing right now in fact as good as he can be—a player who’s a tiny bit above average in every area but free-throw shooting (which is correctable), with no real room to meaningfully improve?

Figuring out a player’s ceiling is obviously a guessing game, but with most guys, coming close to estimating how good, or bad, a player will be is entirely possible. Parsons is different. His ceiling is impossible to gauge. With a well-rounded skill set, Parsons has to ask himself which is more important: making everything a little better, or choosing to excel in one specific area and finding a niche.

According to Synergy, Parsons is one of the league’s 30 best isolation defenders, with opponents (more often than not it being the other team’s best offensive player) shooting 22.9% and scoring 0.6 PPP. By comparison, Tony Allen—widely regarded as the league’s most tenacious on-ball perimeter defender—is holding opponents to 34.9% shooting and 0.68 PPP in isolation sets. (Parsons has been placed in isolation situations 40 more times than Allen, too. Making these numbers borderline incomprehensible.) For the most part Parsons can defend four positions without a double team, and apart from Sam Dalembert and Marcus Camby, is undoubtedly the Rockets best/most important defensive player.

Here’s a performance chart of every shot Kobe Bryant’s taken this season against the Rockets with Parsons on the court. He’s split the duty with Courtney Lee,  but more often than not Parsons is the guy Kevin McHale wants on Kobe.

And here’s a chart detailing every one of Kobe’s shots that came against the Rockets with Parsons on the bench.

Look at the mid-range area specifically. At this stage in his career, this is where Bryant loves to torch his defender, but he’s been unable to do so with Parsons. As they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words.

On the offensive end it’s very, very difficult to game plan against a player like Parsons. He’s mostly utilized as a spot up shooter (for the league’s fourth most accurate jump shooting team from 16-23 feet), where he’s 40.6% from the floor and 36.2% from deep. But he’s also effective in isolation, running a pick and roll, tipping back missed shots (which is where he first made his name) and running in transition. The ways he can kill you are numerous; he defines versatility.

Last week, Kevin McHale talked about how the Rockets are having so much success without any “superstar” on the team. What he had to say was that it’s not how good the players are, but how good they make their teammates that’s important. This is probably the most impressive part of Parsons game right now. He goes out of his way to make things easier for everyone around him, which is something that can’t be taught. The Rockets score 3.21 more points per 100 possessions, and give up 2.43 fewer points on defense when Parsons is on the court, and he’s second on the team in minutes. The sample size is officially large enough to say he’s been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises, and he isn’t going anywhere.

Chandler Parsons was drafted by a team that’s yet to place too much responsibility on his shoulders, while at the same time giving him the opportunity to thrive in a comfortable setting. What the future holds for Parsons is anybody’s guess. But no matter what, it’ll be a super exciting career to follow.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

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  • Alituro

    According to the charts above, if we can keep him on Kobe and CP can force him left and keep him out of the paint, we can significantly slow Kobe down.
    The key to Parsons reaching his unknown ceiling is to keep him with and organization like the Rockets with good coaching, good team play and a management that values and respects it’s players. Then the sky really is the limit for him. If he somehow gets shipped to the dregs of the league, teams like Bobcats and Kings, then it will be a fall from grace for him, I fear. He seems to play with lots of emotion, luckily the emotions on the Rockets are positive.

  • Stephen

    Re the FT shooting,in his last 12 games he’s 15-21,close to 75%.
    As he gains confidence in his FT shooting,hopefully he’ll become more aggressive on his drives and get to the line more.
    As for his jumper,he “just” needs to put more arc on it.
    Something Bill said a few games ago has me wondering. He made the comment that he thinks Parsons best position will end up being SG. While Clyde nearly fell out of his chair in disbelief and got a good laugh,I wonder if Bill may be on to something.
    I think most of us believe Kevin Martin is not in the team’s long term plans. Courtney Lee will likely be re-signed,but if the Timberwolves or Clippers makes an outrageous offer I doubt the Rockets match.
    In the Draft there are a lot more flawed SFs oozing w/ talent that may drop to where the Rockets could get them,than there are SGs,most of whom are on the short side and none who have demonstrated play-making-for-others ability.(Altho my fav is Terrence Ross,a 6’6″ SG whose shooting strengths fit the Rockets O perfectly and who plays hard on D,despite having average wingspan.)
    If the Rockets are in a position to draft Percy Jones,do they pass on him? I doubt it.
    The Rockets have been in pursuit of top SFs for a while now-Gerald Wallace,Iguodala-not SGs. Now that Martin is on the way out and Parsons is here that may change,but teams seem to gnaw on trades for a while and eventually make them.
    Should the Rockets either draft or trade for a high-scoring SF(and keep Granger in mind,Indy can’t afford him,Hibbert and Gordon,and they have George playing SG when he’s really a SF) or Morris blows up in camp will the Rockets really make Parsons their Sixth man off the bench? Or is it more likely they move him to SG,where he can still defend the other team’s top threat,and be the glue guy,the all-around guy?

  • rahathuq

    wouldnt you say the distinction between sf/sg is just semantics, though?

  • mikepina

     @rahathuq I would,  yes. 

  • Stephen

     Yes and no.
    While they are usually interchangeable,SGs are normally quicker and SFs are normally taller and stronger.

  • Chuck

    and yet KD is both taller and quicker than most at BOTH positions. obviously thats not a great example cause he is one of the best players in the league, but for the most part, i think SG and SF can be interchangable

  • David

    Tayshaun Prince?

  • Stephen

    KD struggled much more at SG and the team really solidified once he was moved to SF.
    It’s like Justice Stewart said,you know a SF when you see one and you know a SG when you see one.
    Carmelo Anthony is a SF,Courtney Lee is a SG.

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