Is Chandler Parsons an All-Star?

The Houston Rockets have five players on the 2014 All-Star Ballot this season. Some of them, like James Harden and Dwight Howard, look like shoo-in candidates for the All-Star game. Jeremy Lin is getting votes but seems unlikely to make the trip to New Orleans. Ömer Aşık being on the ballot is now more embarrassing than anything else. One player, however, occupies a different space. When Chandler Parsons was revealed on the All-Star Ballot, many wrote him off as being another cursory inclusion, and his chances of getting in seemed slim at best. Now, however, the climate has altered. Could Parsons be an All-Star after all?

It’s true that Houston’s hope for Chandler Parsons has always been an All-Star appearance. It’s also true that this is their hope for literally every player they ever sign to any contract. Ask general manager Daryl Morey about the long-term goals for rookie Robert Covington, and chances are he’ll slip in that he hopes one of the rookies develops into an All-Star caliber player. Parsons was selected 38th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, putting him in the early second round. Expectations were low when he was drafted, and his under $1m a year contract reflected it.

Being drafted out of the first round isn’t necessarily a death sentence for All-Star hopes, however. If Chandler were to make it to Louisiana this February, he would join a small but lofty group of players to make the same trek. Manu Ginobili, Calvin Murphy, Rashard Lewis, Jeff Hornacek and Doc Rivers are only a few of the players to prove themselves from the second round. It’s certainly unexpected, but not even close to unthinkable. In that case, how does Parsons stack against his competition?

As far as Small Forwards go, Chandler Parsons is actually quite good. His progression from defensive specialist to scoring standout took a couple years, but has been striking in its totality. He now sits easily among the top ten small forwards in the league in a wide array of categories, ranging from points per game (7th), assists per game (5th) and field goal percentage (2nd!). When looking at advanced stats, Parsons impresses even more.

Chandler Parsons is scoring 1.35 points per shot, tied with Paul George for third among small forwards. That’s beyond all expectations, and is largely a function of his incredibly exacting offense. As the third option, Parsons has the option to look for excellent shots and finish at the rim when attention is elsewhere. All of this leads to him being a beast in a variety of overall metrics, like PER and Estimated Wins Added. He’s hovering in the 5th best area in these stats, and that’s something he can be proud of.

But will it be enough to get him into the All-Star Game? That’s a very different question. He’s not going to win a starting berth. There’s no chance he’ll catch up with Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin or Dwight Howard, who have a commanding hold on the three starting frontcourt spots. This leaves his All-Star aspirations in the hands of the Western Conference’s head coaches. This is another matter entirely, and may be part of why people like Jeff van Gundy have begun to predict him as an All-Star talent this year.

By nearly every metric, the west is exceedingly weak at the small forward position. Behind Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Nicolas Batum, Kawhi Leonard and Chandler Parsons emerge as the only real options at the 3 spot in the west. Amazingly, Rudy Gay’s arrival in Sacramento presents a significant hindrance to Parsons’ All-Star chances. Leonard looked poised to make the leap to star status last season, but is doing less is a smaller role this season. Only Nick Young comes anywhere near those players in scoring at the 3, which is liable to be a huge factor in the coaches’ decision.

The question of Chandler Parsons is a strange one. On an objective take, he’s probably not good enough to be an All-Star. He’s not a top-10 player in his conference, and he’s not a top-20 player overall. But due to the weakness at his position, he’s likely to get serious consideration from coaches making their reserve selections. Assuming he sits the game out, he’ll likely see his place taken by the wide array of quality power forwards in the league today. His place as charismatic glue-guy and high-energy scorer for Houston has a sway, however, and that may be worth more than it appeared. Public perception seems to be moving in his favor, and that’s only good for the Rockets.

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