Is Chandler Parsons No Longer Underrated for Houston Rockets?

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Is Chandler Parsons No Longer Underrated for Houston Rockets?
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

As a second-round pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Chandler Parsons has long been considered a steal for the Houston Rockets.

Collecting a shade under $1 million per season according to Spotrac.com, he averaged 15.5 points per game on 49 percent shooting last year. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parsons boasts one of the cap-friendlier contracts in the league.

But the magnifying glass of champions is on the Rockets in 2013-14, and many are now looking beyond the tremendous fiscal value the small forward brings to the table.

On the offensive end, this additional attention serves to increase Parsons’ perceived value. His 2012-13 shot selection perfectly illustrates what Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale have been urging the team to do: Eschew the mid-range game for more three-pointers and restricted-zone attempts—shots with demonstrably favorable risk/reward ratios.

Parsons' shot chart acts as a gospel text for Morey's analytic ideology:

Courtesy of Vorped.com

Measuring the shift in Parsons’ value from last season to now is a bit trickier. The Rockets are tinkering after some failed lineup experiments and generally thirsting for more on-court identity as they adjust to Dwight Howard's presence.

It’s hard to say what the team will look like even a week from today.

Parsons is likely to maintain his role as glue man, buttressing the Howard-James Harden binary, but the team's balance looks to be shaking up on both ends of the floor.

Parsons’ offense has kept pace from last season—although his paltry 22 percent rate from three needs to improve—but it’s the other end of the floor where his team is suffering.

Houston’s ability to take it to the next level depends on whether it can improve its 27th-ranked defense, which is allowing an average of 105.8 points per game.

And Parsons’ defensive issues are the same ones that have been plaguing the team at large. He averages a steal and a block per game, so he has the sleight of hand to be an effective defender, but he can frequently be caught lacking consistent focus in coverage.

Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Too often, his mind seems to have wandered down the court before the Rockets have gotten the stop. These instances could suggest a hangover from last year’s pressing style, which prioritized easy scoring opportunities over half-court attention.

Like Harden, Parsons needs to bring more balance to his game as his team attempts a culture shift. The go-go Rockets got to perform in a vacuum of lowered expectations: Every good thing they did was a pleasant surprise and got a gold star from a fanbase too sick of mediocrity to be critical.

Parsons got to be a darling in this context.

However, he has to evolve into a more complete player in order to justify any increased buzz or demand a loftier contract when his current one runs out. His performance in a low-pressure 2012-13 season was admirable, but now he’s put in a place of higher criticism, where we can more properly rate his value.

Added criticism also brings to light that—like most of his team, which averages 19.6 turnovers a contest (second-worst in the league)—Parsons is coughing up the ball at an alarming rate, averaging 2.4 turnovers per game.

Raw talent—which Parsons boasts plenty of—is all over the NBA. The Rockets themselves have it in spades, but they’re starting to see its limits.

Parsons, like his teammates, needs to hunker down into a more sober, attentive form of basketball in order to be a factor come spring. We’ll see if he’s up to the task.

Chandler Parsons was underrated. Now we’re reevaluating.

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