Another Look at the Rockets' Chandler Parsons

Pool

His overall ‘value’ is undeniable, but he’s still underrated. TDS helps explain why.

Before I begin writing about anything that this man has done in a Rockets uniform on the court, I want all of us to remember something.

We have already done our fair share of foaming at the mouth over the incredible value Morey was able to extract at the 38th pick in the 2011 draft. His insanely cheap salary at $888,250 this season (and less than a million for the next two years) caps off a wonderful scouting job by the Rockets prior to the draft. However, I don't want to dwell on this particular financial notch in Morey's belt (Clutchfans has a great breakdown here for those interested in the contract nitty gritty though).

After all of the player evaluations, workouts, interviews, and draft day trades, Rockets fans were treated to what was, at least in my experience, the most hilarious post-hoc draft day press conference replay ever.

And I want us all to vividly remember it.

First (hilarious) thing to remember

This press conference features Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, THE Chandler Parsons, and...wait for it...Jonny Flynn (lol, remember that!). After a draft day trade with the Timberwolves, the Rockets acquired Donatas and Flynn for Brad Miller (that Brad Miller...he had seen better days) and our first round pick in this year's upcoming draft. So technically, the jury is still out on that trade but I think Dmo will end up being well worth it.

But seriously, honest question, would you rather have Jonny Flynn to join your team as the third PG or Aaron Brooks?

Second (hilarious) thing to remember

Donatas and Marcus swaggin' it up

First, Donatas, after a number of McHale comments about the overwhelming physicality of the NBA game - specifically mentioning Dwight Howard, goes almost awkwardly out of his way to challenge Dwight to a game of tag (at 10:30 mark for those who queued up the video). I'm willing to chalk up a fair bit of that awkwardness to linguistic barriers and not so smooth execution of a half-baked joke; but regardless of how it went down, you can bet your ass that my eyes will be glued to the screen come April 17th if he plays even a minute in our last game of the regular season in the Staples Center against the Lakers. But with the potential for the schedule to make this game an opportunity to play our way into the playoffs and/or knock the Lakers out of the playoffs, you're probably already watching this game anyway. Circled on my calendar for sure.

Second, After the press inquired about a comparison between Marcus Morris and Carmelo Anthony (20:10 mark), Mook foregrounds the discussion with a re-assurance to his (not so) loyal team that he will NOT be taking after Carmelo on the defensive end of the floor. How something like that rises to the level of "yea, I should say this" in a rookie's press conference, I will never know. But he said it, and now he will have to live with it.

For the record, Hoopdata has Carmelo's defensive rating this season (composite of steals + blocks + charges per game) of 1.48. Lowest of his career, but still far better than Mook's rating of .88 so far this year. Rebounding difference is 2.4 per game in favor of Melo. Minutes difference aside (17 mins a game more for Melo) that difference is sizable. But, of course, a composite stat like that isn't all that valuable anyway, especially on defense.

How about this.

I'll also just leave this here.

But why does all of this matter?

Because.

The third (hilarious) thing to remember

Chandler Parsons had front row seats to it all. No comparisons, no outlandish statements, and less mic time in that press conference than Jonny Flynn. He got to sit back as overconfident rookies made fools of themselves while he quietly contemplated how much better he would eventually be than them. He did not just prove he was better than them, he proved that he was so much better than them that he deserved to the captain of the whole damn team. Flynn got cut, Mook got shipped to the Vipers D-League squad (and eventually to PHX), Dmo stayed in Europe for another year (and eventually with the Vipers), and Chandler...well...

Chandler went to work.

Eventually.

Chandler's Rookie Campaign

Even though the lockout every team with substantially less time in training camp, something happened during the short stretch they had that turned Chandler from a rookie at his first practice to a stalwart starter on the team. He started 86% of the Rockets games last season (57 out of 66, played in all but 3. 2 of those were in the first 4 regular season games he was on the roster) donning Robert Horry's famous #25 across his chest. By the 6th game in the season he was gobbling up 20 minutes a night, minimum.

We all have surmised that McHale has shown an intense hesitation to give rookies playing time. Maybe it's because he's stubborn, maybe he really is keeping Terrence Jones from getting embarrassed on a nightly basis. Either way, Parsons found a way to stay on the floor, and usually guarding the other team's best offensive player.

During his rookie year he scored over 10 points in 30 of his games and shot 45% from the floor. He averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. By those numbers, it was a very average NBA season relative to every other player in the league. He contributed in more categories than most, but nothing overwhelming. But every Houstonite knew we had a gem.

We all talk about how great Chandler Parsons is on our team. But I'm not sure that we fully appreciate this guy for what he does for this franchise on the court. Here are some stat comparisons to better illustrate the point.

In 2011-2012, The Rockets faced several superstars that Chandler Parsons not only was on the court with at the same time, but was tasked with guarding. Here is how he fared against the two hardest assignments he'll have in this league defensively (I would have done several other wing players, but most of the minutes on/off court made for wacky numbers. Luckily, these two exhibited the highest number of games/minutes on the floor together for comparison purposes).

1. Kevin Durant

They played in 4 games, totaling 101 minutes on the floor together. Per 36 mins, Chandler held Durant to a 7% worse shooting percentage overall than his season average that year. Even more impressive, Durant shot that much worse taking 5.1 more field goal attempts per 36, particularly from 3 (2.9 more of those attempts) with Chandler on the court against him.

In those 101 minutes, Kevin Durant took 65 field goal attempts. Of those 65 attempts, 43 of them were from mid-range or beyond the 3 point arc. He made only 13 of those shots. 13! Missed 30! That's 30.2% on field goal attempts outside of the paint!

Breaking that down even further, from only mid-range, Durant was 5 of 21 for 24%. In the minutes Durant played against the Rockets without Chandler on the floor, Durant's mid-range percentage sky-rocketed to 71%.

Chandler forced the best scorer in the league into taking jump shots and missing them. That includes a crucial mid-range shot that was a potential game winner for Durant against us last year (granted, he got us with a game winner in another game from mid-range. Chandler Parsons did close out well but Durant sank it).

Still, for a rookie to be given the task of guarding a guy on an NBA scoring championship streak that continues to this day is a tall order. Chandler stepped up and forced his man to take long jump shots and get very few shots in the paint relative to his number of attempts.

2. Kobe Bryant

Here they get 3 games against each other, totaling 70 minutes of head-to-head play. That season, Kobe shot 44.7% of his field goals from mid-range. He hit those at a 41% clip that season. In those 70 minutes against Parsons, Kobe shot 29% on 17 his shots from that distance. In fact, of Kobe's 44 field goal attempts, well over half (27) were from outside the paint. He connected on 29.6% of those shots. Kobe's per 36 assists and rebounds also took dives versus his season averages when playing against Parsons. Those particular numbers bounced right back once Chandler stepped off the court, however.

By now, we all have seen or heard about the Kobe ‘compliment' to Chandler. I found it somewhat backhanded in full context. Not criticizing it, I'd say the same thing in Kobe's shoes, but it wasn't the ringing endorsement it was made out to be.

But Chandler doesn't need Kobe's verbal confirmation of his greatness, the numbers spell it out just fine.

Shane Battier would be proud.

This helps too.

Other Rookie Year Nuggets

Chandler's production also increased nicely with his usage his rookie year. When playing between 20-30 minutes Chandler averaged 7.6 points, 3.8 boards, 1.7 assists, and .7 steals. When playing between 30-40 minutes a game, Chandler's averages jumped to 12 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.6 steals. Those stat lines are based on 23 and 27 games respectively, making the differences look even better with such an even split in number of games.

The other thing that always made me like Chandler is that he was the same player on the road as he was at home. Usually you expect a much bigger drop off from a rookie playing on the road in the NBA, but check out his per game split stats at home and away:

Home: 29.2 mins, 9.4 points, 5 boards, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, .5 blocks, 1.3 turnovers

Away: 28 mins, 9.6 points, 4.5 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals, .5 blocks, 1.3 turnovers

The deviations are incredibly small. Rebounds were the biggest net negative at a .5 per game difference. But half of the states are literally identical and assists are only off by .1 per game even though Parsons played slightly less minutes on the road. Plus, the guy scored more on the road by a slim margin as well. That is eerily consistent for a rookie. Hell, that's eerily consistent for any NBA player under the age of 25.

Scarily enough, Chandler also shot much higher percentages on the road than at home. In the Toyota Center, he shot 44.5% from the field and 30.9% from 3pt range. On the road, however, Chandler shot 45.9% from the field (1.4% increase) and 36.9% from beyond the arc (6% increase!). Very few times have you seen rookies shoot that efficiently in their opponent's gym, let alone in their own.

You start to fully understand why this guy was named team captain.

Enter Year Two

Finally getting his first crack at an 82 game season, Parsons first had to survive what can only be described as a complete purge of the Rockets roster in the offseason.

The only thing that stands out more than the sheer number of Rockets who got turned over before the season was the fact that Chandler stood as the only one the Rockets sought to keep. In the most literal sense, it seems as if we have been building this team around Chandler Parsons.

To begin delving into his second season, let's look at the base per game stats from last year versus this year up to this point (we are around the same number of games to this point as well, although the lockout schedule certainly affected things differently):

2011-12: 28.7 mins, 9.5 points, 4.7 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals, .5 blocks, 1.3 turnovers

2012-13: 36.3 mins, 15.1 points, 5.5 boards, 3.7 assists, 1.1 steals, .4 blocks, 2.1 turnovers

At a glance, usage obviously up and most of the stats are consistent with that increase in 7.6 minutes per game. Steals and blocks plateaued, but the scoring increase has been the most notable. It has been clear that Parsons had been working on that outside jumper of his. Last season, 32% of his field goal attempts came from 3 point range. This season, that percentage has jumped to 42.8% so far. He is converting on those attempts at a higher rate than last year as well, from the corner most notably. Last year, he sank the baseline trey 43% of the time (which isn't bad in its own right). This year (so far), he's bumped that to 51%! To make that number even more impressive, he is shooting that high of a percentage taking 30 more corner 3's up until this point this season than he took all of last season. His above the arc 3 point percentage is also up 4% (from 28% to 32%), which doesn't sound nearly as impressive until you factor in that he has increased his number of attempts 104 in roughly the same number of games played as last season.

Defensively, lets revisit some of those superstar matchups in comparison to his rookie year

1. Kevin Durant

This time around, there have been two games with a total of 63 minutes together. Per 36 minutes, Durant is shooting 51% on the season. With Parsons on the floor this season, that drops all the way to 38%. Additionally, that silky smooth 3 point touch KD has loses 6% of its accuracy against our Bromander-in-Chief.

Out of 29 total shot attempts with Chandler on the floor, Durant shot 40.7% overall. 35.2% on shots outside the paint. All well below the averages for NBA players and absolutely below the averages for Durant.

To recap this head to head in total over the past two years defensively for Parsons:

Over 6 games and 164 minutes of head-to-head --

Durant takes a total of 94 field goal attempts. He connects on 37.2% of his shots (39/94). Of those shots, 60 have been from outside of the paint (mid-range or 3 pointers). He has made a paltry 31.6% of those shots

I am not attempting to argue that Parsons "shuts down" Kevin Durant. In fact, I am of the opinion that it is impossible to do so. But, I do believe that there is a pretty strong argument that Parsons bothers Durant defensively and makes him work harder to take shots that are statistically less likely to go in the bucket.

If we are going to build a team capable to taking down the Western Conference, we are going to need someone like Chandler who can force the other team's best player to suck up more offensive possessions "getting theirs". These numbers give me confidence that we have found someone to do that.

2. Kobe Bryant

This is probably the weakest of the comparisons but I still think there is some merit here. 3 games this year against one another, 91 total minutes of floor time together. Kobe totaled 56 shot attempts, hitting 44.6% (He is averaging 47% on the year, for comparison).

Most notable here is Bryant's 3 point shooting. On average this season, Kobe's shot distribution has found 24.4% of his shots coming from downtown. Against Parsons this year, that percentage is 30.3% and Kobe has made only 29% of those 3 pointers with Chandler on the floor.

Here are Parsons' careers numbers v. Kobe defensively -

Over 6 games, 161 minutes played together.

Kobe totaled exactly 100 field goal attempts. He hit on 42% of those shots. On shots outside the paint (and this is actually quite startling), Kobe shot exactly the same number of attempts as Durant does against Parsons (60) and has made exactly the same number of them for an equally paltry 31.6%.

Again, ‘shutting down' a player like this is a fantasy. The most realistic scenario for success is forcing them to take their shots further away from the basket (and from mid-range in particular) and making them less efficient at putting points on the board.

The Bottom Line

The two most deadly offensive players in the league have not been able to shoot the ball effectively when Chandler Parsons is on the floor. They don't just shoot poorly; they shoot awfully and more often.

Say what you will about James Harden, Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin, and their importance to this team's success, but there are VERY few players on this earth that can walk onto a basketball court straight out of college and be tasked with guarding the other team's best offensive perimeter player AND hold them to the kinds of numbers Chandler Parsons is while still developing his offensive game as quickly as he is.

I didn't even get into how good of a passer he is for his size.

The most vocal negative comments I've even heard from fans are A) about his hair and B) very quickly devolve from there into Bro-related Natty Lite jokes. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Bro joke as much as the next guy, but sometimes I feel like we need to do a triple (quadruple?) take at this guy and what he is doing to make our franchise part of the playoff conversation in order to fully appreciate what he brings to this team.

Hats off to you Chandler - we all know you will be rich as hell come 2015 - I just hope the Rockets are in a position to fill that bank account of yours.

Hindsight is usually more accurate than it is funny (in this case, it's both), but I still feel like despite all of this Chandler Parsons is not being leveraged as effectively as his play has demonstrated when I hear conversations about the Rockets and how they have been successful.

Hopefully these numbers and anecdotes can help us more accurately articulate how key of a cog he is in the Rocket's deadly basketball machine.

I will leave you with a list of a few choice players drafted ahead of Chandler Parsons in 2011:

Derrick Williams

Jonas Valanciunas

Jan Vesely

THE JIMMER

Chris Singleton

Tobias Harris

Jordan Hamilton

Norris Cole

Bojan Bogdanovic

Kyle Singler

And last, but not least, Tyler Honeycutt.

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