The Rookie: Sizing Up Houston's Chandler Parsons

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 10: Chandler Parsons #25 of the Houston Rockets dunks the ball on Boris Diaw #32 of the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 10, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

To gloat just a little bit, I wrote this about Chandler Parsons right after the Houston Rockets selected the former Florida Gator with the 38th pick in this year's NBA draft:

Houston took Parsons, a 6-foot-10, polished small forward out of Florida. Assuming the Rockets make a few moves and make room for Parsons on the roster, I'm excited. He's a real good player, one that I think has the potential to be a starter down the road, if not a solid bench staple in the league for years to come. He does a little bit of everything well, from shooting to passing to running the floor. His athleticism is a little suspect, but at 38, he's great value for Houston.

Admittedly, when I pegged Parsons as a starter "down the road," I didn't suspect the road would end quite so soon.

But alas, here we are. Chandler Parsons is the Rockets starting small forward less than a month into the season. You're not dreaming, this isn't a test. A second round pick is seeing thirty-minute nights and for good reason. Nobody got injured and needed replacing. To be sure, Parsons played his way into his new role and took full advantage of every opportunity.

Throughout Chase Budinger's recent struggles, Parsons has picked up the slack in all departments. He grabs rebounds, he hits threes, he's a smart defender and he takes the ball strong to the basket like a seasoned veteran who has been there before. I know we really like Patrick Patterson and I know some of us really like Marcus Morris, but between the three players in each of their rookie seasons, it's Parsons who has shown the quickest returns and it hasn't been close.

What is it about Chandler that makes him so NBA-ready, and how did other scouts miss this guy? It's not as if Parsons has guaranteed himself a glorious ten-year career through just nine games, but he has impressed to the point that teams have got to be kicking themselves for at least not taking a late first-round flier on him.

(Quickly, props to the scouting department. They did it again. They nailed another second round pick and saw through the perceived problems that kept every other team at bay. I'm not saying "Mission Accomplished," but for now, well done, scouts.)

In digging through past scouting reports, I came across a few gems from various draft heads who saw Parsons in action. First, a scouting report from NBA Draft Blog (emphasis mine):

Parsons is good at a lot of things, the major issue is that he is not great at any one particular thing. His versatility would let him fit into most offensive sets, especially one where he can operate between the perimeter and the high post. His passing ability and high basketball IQ allow him to play solid minutes without letting his real lack of scoring ability affect the offense. However, he really needs to develop a more consistent jumper and he really needs to become a much better defender to earn major minutes. I don't think many people saw him developing into the SEC Player of the Year, so I wouldn't put it past him to improve these areas fairly quickly. Right now, I see him being a late first round to early second round pick, most likely in the 25-40 range.

And here's an interesting snippet from Chad Ford (via Alligator Army), after he saw Parsons go one-on-one against 2010 lottery pick Paul George.

Parsons really surprised me. I knew he was skilled and athletic for a 6-foot-10 player. But he showed an aggressiveness that I just hadn't seen at Florida. He went head-to-head with George for an hour. George is better, but Parsons held his own. He showed the ability to take him off the dribble to the rim, rise up and hit jumpers over George's freakishly long arms and most importantly, make a number of spell-binding passes to Thomas. Parsons' decision making in the sets were fantastic. So was his shooting. He was hitting just about every shot he took and showed range out to the NBA 3-point line.

Here's the problem: We all knew this about Parsons coming out of school. He was the SEC player of the year, he has great size and he has a polished, well-rounded game. So really, what wasn't there to like? Ford elaborates:

Scouts have always been high on Parsons' tools. It's been his lack of results at Florida that have caused his draft stock to slide. I think Parsons will have a great shot at the first round if he plays like he did on Wednesday. It was really a wow performance against one of the better young defenders in the league.

His lack of results at Florida? Well, yes, actually. If you ask me, when you're scouting players for future returns, you use the ol' eye test instead of referencing statistics. Turns out, many of these scouts may have panicked when looking at Parsons' Florida statline:
Screen_shot_2012-01-11_at_4
Screen_shot_2012-01-11_at_4
In today's fast-paced, "what have you done for me lately" world, I suppose it would have been easy to dismiss Parsons as a legitimate first-round prospect. In four years, he never made the big scoring jump that could have propelled him into the first round. His three-point shot wasn't a guaranteed asset, either.

But who's to say that a player is suddenly done developing if he suffers a slight scoring setback in his senior year of college? The NBA is a different league and a different life. Some people can adjust and thrive better than others. In nine games, Parsons went from an overlooked rookie to a Charlotte Savior. Plus, he has already dunked on Blake Griffin (while Griffin wans't looking, of course). And he's done it all with a little bit of swagger and style.

If you want to take anything away from Parsons' performance over the past few weeks, take his confidence to heart. It's rare for a rookie to possess such a carefree, yet focused attitude. But what has Parsons got to lose? He's a second round pick. He's an afterthought in a league where second rounders go to die. It's got to drive him, one way or another.

So long as Parsons keeps translating his confident mindset to stellar on-court play, he has a bright future. I won't speculate to what his upside will be because I'm frankly afraid to guess with this guy -- it's clear that expectations mean nothing to him. All I know is, his motivation and drive will go a long way towards making up for any physical deficiencies in his game. And to date, we have yet to see a handful of those, either.
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