If Chandler Parsons were an infomercial, you'd say he were too good to be true.
His three-pointers can punish! He attacks closeouts! He finishes well at the rim! His defense has ranged from intriguing to downright impressive! He can even dribble-drive!
He goes for 15.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game!
And all for the low, low price of just $888,250!
Which begs the question: If we order now, can we get a second Parsons absolutely free?
We wish. Guys like Chandler Bang don't come around very often. But he will give you another two seasons at under a million apiece.
Yep, it's too good to be true. Even though it is true.
I admit, I'd barely heard of Parsons when he was selected by the Houston Rockets as the 38th overall pick in 2011. It was only because I was rooting for Cinderella team UCSB, a 15th seed, that I watched Florida's Parsons accumulate 10 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in their NCAA tournament matchup.
Turns out the real Cinderella was Parsons.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey must have had a really good feeling about Parsons, because he gave him what was actually a quite generous contract—nearly double the league minimum, which is almost unheard of for a second-rounder. He also gave Parsons two guaranteed years, and additional partial guarantees for subsequent years.
In exchange, Parsons had to sign a four-year deal, which again is rare for a pick that low.
The result? To what by this point should be no one's surprise, advantage Morey once again.
We all know—or perceive—that Rockets coach Kevin McHale does not look favorably upon rookies. Yet somehow Parsons played in 63 of his team's 66 games—and started 57 of them. He averaged 12 and six per 36 minutes on his way to making the All-Rookie second team, finishing with 10 first-place votes, and more votes than any other second-rounder.
Don't forget that Parsons was the only starter the Rockets felt strongly enough about to keep this season. That was not a Ted Baxter decision; Parsons earned that consideration.
He's rewarded the Rockets' faith immeasurably. If last year was Cinderella's coming-out ball, this year has been the stuff fairy tales have been made of. Because if you call Parsons one of the league's best small forwards, the shoe fits.
He has improved offensively in every area of his game. This season, Parsons goes for 15.1 per 36 minutes, with slightly fewer rebounds (5.4 versus last year's 6.0), but that is easily attributed to increased time spent on the perimeter—and, wisely, it's more often time above the break than on the wings.
Parsons is making the most of that time: After hitting 33.7 percent of his long-range attempts last year, he is stroking 38.6 this year, and has become a great pick-and-pop weapon, a main reason why he's the team's second-leading scorer. And he gets his points with consistent shooting night in and night out (thanks @Gorge).
That's to say nothing of his passing skills, which are above average for his position. This is from a preseason scrimmage, but watch how fluid Parsons is on this behind-the-back pass. I never get tired of watching it.
Parsons is not at the level of LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony, but he's just a couple notches down, near the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gay. And I'd take Parsons over either of those guys, just because I like watching his enthusiastic game better.
On defense, Parsons to me was more impressive last year. That's not to say this year has been a failure in any way. But he sometimes reminds me of a ball hawk cornerback, gambling on getting a steal instead of playing the conservative percentages.
Said kindly, as a ball hawk, Parsons is more like an Alphonso Smith than a Dick LeBeau. In other words, he gets burned more often than he should. (By the way, that's not a knock on Smith, who needs to get more consistent, but who can be a stunning game-changer. An NFL team absolutely needs to give him a chance as a full-time starter.)
The point being, Parsons needs to play defense like the Rockets' carefully designed offense: by the percentages. It's simple physics: The closer you are to the guy you're guarding, the more difficult he'll be to pass to. Thus, Parsons would do well to follow Tammy Wynette's advice and stand by his man more often.
So, if I were a coach, defense is where I'd put most of my focus when working with Parsons. But that's nit-picky, all in all, and Parsons has acquitted himself well against some tough matchups, specifically Kevin Durant.
Let's get back to how valuable he is, and can be. Parsons recently talked about how special it was for him to play in the Amway Center, because he grew up an Orlando Magic fan.
It's fitting. Not because of the magic he brings to the Rockets, but because to me, his ceiling is Magic-era Grant Hill—minus the injuries, knock on wood.
Take all those pluses and factor in his contract, and I believe Parsons becomes the best value player in the NBA.
I can't prove that assessment, but I can give you this rationale.
Usually when you hear or read about value contracts in the NBA, names like Rajon Rondo, Tim Duncan and Joakim Noah get bandied about. These are guys who make $12 million or more a year.
Values in the $5-$6 million per year range are backups like Mo Williams, decent but unheralded guys like Jarrett Jack, or starters who are either very quiet like Mike Conley or fellow second-round pick Paul Millsap, or have issues like Kyle Lowry.
Parsons is contributing at about the same clip as the best of that second list of players…but he's making less than $1 million on his rookie deal.
When you really stop to think about it, it's seriously unbelievable in today's NBA that a guy with such prodigious production is such a bargain.
Have I sold you yet?
If I have, order now, because supplies are very limited.
And give your ring size.
Because with Parsons giving the Rockets both production and salary-cap flexibility, they'll all be wearing rings soon.