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The Rockets Daily – September 2, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T - For as much as Tracy McGrady’s career has been characterized by what he lacked–playoff success, good teammates–his retirement has revealed that T-Mac as one thing in spades: respect from his peers. Bill Simmons nails it in his Grantland piece on the subject:

Tracy McGrady? He’s the guy who never made it to the second round. And yet, just two weeks ago, Kobe Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel in front of 5,000 people that McGrady was his toughest opponent ever. Not LeBron, not Wade, not Pierce, not Durant. T-Mac. Was that a passive-aggressive dig at LeBron? Did Kobe really mean it? After McGrady retired this week, I couldn’t resist texting Kobe to ask him. Was it true? Was T-Mac really the most talented player Kobe ever played against?

His response: “No question.”

The cherry on top was Dwayne Wade’s response to the article on Twitter:

A Unified Theory of Chandler Parsons – Yesterday, Rahat tackled the subject of The Hair’s market value, but today I’m looking at a different question: why did Chandler Parsons succeed at all? As Rahat points out, advanced metrics on Parsons are a mixed bag. His PER is average, his Win Shares are good, but his Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (which basically tracks how much better the team is with him on the court) is low. As you may recall, plus-minus was the Rosetta Stone to understanding why Shane Battier was valuable. But the real conundrum goes back to how Parsons not only managed to crack the rotation as a second round pick, but how he was managed to become a captain of the team.

The tricky thing about Parsons is that he is good-not-great at just about everything. This doesn’t sound strange until you look at the history of other Rockets (and NBA players in history) who have succeeded after being picked late or going undrafted. Almost all of those guys could hang their hat on one elite skill. Aaron Brooks: shooting, Chuck Hayes: post defense, Carl Landry and Luis Scola: post scoring, Greg Smith: finishing on the pick and roll. Parsons doesn’t blow you away in the eye test in any of the skill areas associated with his position: ballhandling, three-point shooting, passing or finishing at the rim.

However, he ranks 10th at his position in both True Shooting and Assist Ratio. Now we’re getting somewhere. Lets dig a little deeper into his shooting. Follow me over to 82games.com, and look at Parsons’ eFG% on jump shots (.519) and his eFG% inside (.655). I compared those numbers for him against LeBron, Durant, Iguodala, Deng, Jimmy Butler, Paul Pierce, Kobe, Wade, Paul George,  James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. Only two guys were better than Parsons in both areas: LeBron and Durant. Kawhi Leonard was the only other guy who came close, and really the comparison between him and Parsons is virtually equal by this measure. In other words, only two guys are better at exploiting the basic defensive conundrum of guarding the drive or guarding the shot, and they’re the two best players in the world.

But that conclusion is not the theory.  It doesn’t explain how Kevin McHale recognized a talent that dozens of scouts overlooked. It doesn’t explain how Parsons puts up those numbers without textbook shooting form or deceptive handles.

The Unified Theory of Chandler Parsons is: Chandler Parsons makes the right decision.

He shoots at the best time to shoot, he drives at the best time to drive, and he cuts at the best time to cut. That sounds too simple. It’s not. And I think I know how Houston’s front office measures it. Check out this Grantland article from last March, in which Zach Lowe gets an inside look at how the Toronto Raptors use their SportVU video tracking system. Teams can use that technology to build a computer model–based on advanced metrics–of what players should do on any given play. It’s similar to what a coach is doing mentally all the time, evaluating how well his players are responding to what is going on on the court.

My theory is that Parsons does naturally what the computer would say is the most efficient decision in the vast majority of situations. He does naturally what McHale sees as the correct play, thereby earning his trust. He makes up for his lack of a single distinguishing, efficient skill by making the best choice again and again. His decision-making is his skill.

The impact of that skill may not have shown up in his plus-minus yet, but it’s something that his coaches and the front office can track play-by-play, seeing the process that they know results in success.

So there’s the Unified Theory of Chandler Parsons. The only way to truly test it is to break down every one of his plays in SportVU, and the only people with the time, money, and brains to do that are NBA front offices. The most negative ramification of the theory is that unlike, say, JaVale McGee, Parsons is already making the most of his talent and has therefore hit his ceiling. The most positive ramification is that he is exactly the guy you want playing next to two superstars, because he will always be making the best basketball decision.

Got any sweet links or suggestions? Email them to jeby901@gmail.com or message @EbyNews on Twitter.

 

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About the author: John Eby got on the Rockets bandwagon in 1994 and never got off. He is a public relations guy and recovering TV journalist living in South Carolina.