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Top 10 Rockets “Could Have Beens” - #6: Chandler Parsons

Chandler who?

New York Knicks v Houston Rockets Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

If you don’t want to feel old, don’t read this next sentence:

Chandler Parsons turns 30 next month.

Feel old yet? Are the grey hairs growing like wildfire? Are you reminiscing on the times when Chandler Parsons was not a pompous, egotistical, narcissistic pain in the butt, or at least came across as one far from the sort?

The rise and fall of Chandler ParsonsHouston Rockets career is a magnificent one. He started out as one of the most promising second-round prospects the Rockets had had in years, and Parsons was looking like one of Daryl Morey’s greatest finds even though he was hidden in plain sight.

The Rockets usually turned down the idea of drafting a popular national-level player and would opt for more under-the-radar finds. Those include international talents Yao Ming, Bostjan Nachbar, and other lowly-covered NCAA guys like Aaron Brooks and Patrick Patterson. However, 2011 was a deviation from their previous strategy as Parsons became a Houston Rocket.

When the Rockets first drafted Parsons, I said to myself, “Wow, the Rockets actually drafted someone I know — in the second round!”

Granted, I was 13 when Parsons began his career, but I did not think much of it. I assumed he’d probably flame out like all the other second-round picks the Rockets got and play overseas. I did not know if this guy was going to be as good as he was in college.

He was as good, if not better.

With the Rockets moving past the Yao-McGrady era, the now Kevin McHale-led Rockets were quick to give minutes to the young, upbeat Parsons, starting him in 57 games his rookie season.

Could you imagine a team doing that now? Very few teams can put a second-round pick in their lineup and have a competitive season. The Rockets finished 34-32 in that lockout-shortened season.

The Rockets were struggling to find their identity, the team had no true star, but the one certainty the team had was they knew Parsons was part of the future. He was their most promising player at just 23 and continuing to improve.

The next season, James Harden came to town and Parsons would be the second-leading scorer on the team. He fit well with Harden because he was lean and could help space the floor for the more ball-dominant Harden while also being able to create on offense. He was a more offensive-minded Trevor Ariza and he fit in well with the team.

After a quick return and exit from the playoffs, the Rockets brought Dwight Howard into the fold, further molding a team that had Parsons as one of its highest values. He was making peanuts with the Rockets due to his second-round pick status, and he was set to become a restricted free agent following the 2013-14 season.

After another outstanding season, Parsons averaged a career-high 16.6 points per game and some began to lump him in with Howard and Harden into a “Big Three.” Unfortunately for the Rockets, adding D12 and climbing up to the 4th seed in the Western Conference failed to get them any further in the playoffs. They were beat by the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.

When the Rockets lost that gut-wrenching series, there was still a small sense of optimism that the team would get to the next step with another year of the Harden-Howard-Parsons trio, and there was no question that Parsons would be brought back despite being a free agent.

The Dallas Mavericks signed Parsons, a restricted free agent at the time, to a three-year, $46 million deal, and the Rockets were expected to match after finalizing their deal with Chris Bosh. The Rockets were going to add Bosh after LeBron James left to return to Cleveland.

However, when Bosh stunned Houston and chose to return to Miami after a change of heart, the Rockets began to second-guess whether bringing Parsons back was the right move too.

Ultimately, after saying they had every intention to match the Mavericks’ offer, the Rockets declined and stunned fans when they let Parsons walk on to Dallas.

When the Rockets declined to keep Parsons and opted for a cheaper option in one-time Rocket Trevor Ariza, fans were perplexed. However, ask any Rockets fan of today, and they will say the Rockets made the right decision.

Ariza produced a much greater value at his price than what Parsons did and played far better than Parsons in the past four seasons.

Once Parsons left Houston and earned a boat load of money, his demeanor changed. He appeared to not care as much about basketball and more about other materialistic things that come with the job of being an NBA player.

After two subpar seasons in Dallas, Parsons declined his third-year option and became a free agent again, signing with Memphis in the summer of 2016 to a four-year, $94 million contract.

So far in his Grizzlies career, Parsons has missed 94 games. In his two years in Dallas, he missed just 37, and in Houston, he missed just 17.

Injuries have definitely been a huge reason why Parsons is a “Could Have Been”, but his Rockets career was filled with a decent amount of success. And his career is by no means a failure either. He’s made close to $150 million total, and that’s all before he turns 32.

It’s hard to say whether Parsons would have continued his success in Houston had the Rockets matched his contract in 2014. It seems like the Rockets dodged a bullet, however, because Ariza was a fantastic addition to the team for the past four seasons. Since Parsons left, the Rockets have made the playoffs in every season and have won five playoff series. Parsons has won zero in that span.

Parsons could have been the answer in Houston for many years to come and fallen into a long lineage of popular Rockets role players, but an unfortunate turn of events derailed Parsons’ career with the Rockets and his potential to improve his overall game.