Forum moderator John Gold had an interesting take last week in response to my thoughts on a proposed Carmelo Anthony deal to the Rockets. He says that while the conventional wisdom dictates that the team would most likely include budding power forward Terrence Jones in an Anthony deal (along with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin), the Rockets would be wise to include critically acclaimed supermodel Chandler Parsons in lieu of Jones.
While I disagree with Gold’s take that Jones’ upside is higher than Parsons’, I would have to agree with his overall thesis regarding Parsons’ worth, a belief I’ve been forming since late last season.
First, on Jones: I’m not as high on him as most seem to be. To wit, he’s been marvelous in filling the role he’s been asked to fill. But as I’ve said numerous times, I don’t trust him in a playoff series against the big boys, and when I look at him, I don’t see the budding All-Star everyone else sees. He doesn’t have the elite indicators you’d look for in a young player to prognosticate high level growth. He’s average athletically (what makes him look so above-average in this department, at times, is above average length. Watch him fail to get anything around the rim against the likes of Ibaka and you’ll realize his weaknesses), has dreadful form on his jumpshot, and makes all of his moves as the result of muscle memory motion.* (More on this below.) In fact, his best chance at taking his game to another level is re-working the mechanics on his jumpshot so that he can be dependable from anywhere a la Carl Landry. Unfortunately, it’s very rare for an NBA player to put in that kind of effort. (Players work on their shots, sure, but it’s a rare thing to change form. ) What has made Jones such a revelation this season is his ability to fill in the gaps: he runs the floor hard, cuts hard, and has good hands; he’s the perfect role player to fill the open spaces created by the massive presence of Dwight Howard. When those things are taken away, because he has little in a vacuum, he struggles against the big boys.
*Next time you’re playing pick-up, unless its at a ridiculously high level, notice that 99% of the guys do some of the same moves every time, regardless of the situation. Everyone has a pet move they do, and they’ve done it so many times it’s become second nature. The problem is when you do that some motion every single time. It indicates that that player is not really thinking but just acting involuntarily. That’s the case with Terrence Jones and that crossover. When he’s on the perimeter, he’s going to just bust out that same crossover dribble, regardless of the second line of defense. (A fascinating point Steve Nash made in the recent Bill Simmons podcast was that he felt Amare didn’t really make the big leap until he started reading the second line of defense later in his career, because he had never learned how to play the game properly growing up. Jones can learn too but Amare is one of the hardest working athletes in the NBA and was also in the top 1% athletically…) Now watch James Harden, or any point guard. They make moves with their mind, not their muscle memory. They do different things based on different situations. I digress: this post was supposed to be about Chandler Parsons.
It’s not an indictment upon Parsons to remark that his greatest quality is his pricetag. I’ve seen people get indignant when this point is raised, as if it means Chandler Parsons sucks otherwise. That’s not what I, or I think Gold, am/are saying. But at $10million (or even more), he’s just not as attractive. And as this seasons wears on more and more, we’re starting to see that maybe Parsons isn’t the best fit in the world next to Harden, due to the defensive inabilities of both. Throw Carmelo Anthony into the mix, another player not too interested in playing that end of the court, and you can see why keeping Parsons might not be the best idea. Again, none of this is meant as an indictment against Parsons. It’s not so much about him as it is about the make-up of this team. If our guards were Gary Payton and Hersey Hawkins, as was the backcourt enjoyed by Parsons’ 90′s era doppelganger Detlef Schrempf, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But our shooting guard is James Harden. And Harden is one of the three or four most brilliant scorers in our league, so he gets a pass for his defense. But something else has to give.
A sidenote: Parsons’ decision to eschew the defensive side of the ball these past two seasons in favor of adding to his offensive totals is one of the most rational, economically sound deliberations I can remember by any Rocket in recent history. He probably earned himself an extra $10million over the life of his next contract just by that evolution. If he’s giving 100% effort on defense, he’s probably averaging around 12 points per game, with our team defense improved; he probably earns some praise and backhanded compliments here and there but he still wouldn’t be seen as a “stopper.” That probably nets him around $7million annually. But 17ppg? Sure, the team suffers, but now he’s in the conversation as an eventual All-Star. I don’t blame him one bit.
My overall point here is this: I’m not saying the team should look to get rid of Chandler Parsons or that they eventually shouldn’t resign him. But, as I said during the Rondo talks, I don’t think he should be considered a dealbreaker when pursuing an elite level player. And Anthony, unlike Rondo, isn’t inclined on the defensive end, making this point even more relevant. If it came down to New York saying Parsons or no-go, I have strong feelings on what the Rockets should do.