Much has been made of Chandler Parsons' value in the wake of his move to the Dallas Mavericks from the Houston Rockets, especially after comments made by Parsons himself, Dwight Howard and James Harden.
According to The Associated Press, Dwight Howard said of Parsons' departure: "It won't affect us at all."
Parsons, for his part, said on Jim Rome's radio show that Howard's comment was "ridiculous" but that "at the end of the day, he has to stick up for the Rockets and I don’t think he meant it in a bad way and didn’t try to bash me at all." Parsons then said of the Mavs: "They view me as a franchise player and think I can do big things there."
Then, according to
Think before you speak.— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) July 24, 2014
This all begs the question: Where does Parsons' true skill level lie? Is he a franchise player or a role player? The truth is that he's probably both, and neither.
Parsons is one of only 12 players to have played at least 2,700 minutes in each of the last two seasons. His 36.9 minutes per game over that timespan are 14th highest among all players, seemingly placing him in franchise player territory. After all, the best players usually receive the most minutes.
However, of the 179 players who have played at least 3,000 minutes during the last two seasons combined, 114 of them have registered a higher usage rate than Parsons' 18.8 percent mark. This would seem to place him squarely in role-player territory. After all, the best players usually use a large percentage of their team's possessions.
Such is the quandary with Parsons, who is something of a franchise role player. Among the group of 179 players who have played at least 3,000 minutes over the last two seasons, Parsons has the sixth-most win shares of any player who registered a usage rate less than 20 over that time span, behind only Serge Ibaka, Joakim Noah, George Hill, DeAndre Jordan and Robin Lopez.
In three short years, Parsons has turned himself into the epitome of the cliched "fill-in-the-blanks guy."
He has increased his minutes, points, rebounds, assists, free throws, Player Efficiency Rating, assist percentage, usage rate, win shares and free-throw percentage every season of his career, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Last season, Parsons was one of only six players to average at least 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, joining Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Michael Carter-Williams.
If Houston needed him to score, he scored. The Rockets went 27-11 in games where he scored at least 17 points.
If the Rockets needed him to be a distributor, he distributed. Houston went 20-6 in games where Parsons had at least five assists.
If they needed Parsons to rebound, he hit the glass. They registered a 18-7 record when he recorded at least seven boards.
That kind of versatility is the main thing he brings to the Mavericks. The players he's replacing, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, had very narrowly defined roles for the last few years.
Marion was the defensive stopper who filled in around Dirk Nowitzki with spot-up shots and cuts to the basket. Carter turned himself from a former star into a quintessential "three-and-D" player who ran the occasional secondary pick-and-roll.
Parsons is not nearly the defender Marion is, but he combines the best aspects of both Marion and Carter to make himself a much more well-rounded offensive player than either one of them.
Over the last two seasons, Parsons has stabilized himself as one of the better outside shooters in the league. He has made 37.8 percent of his three-point shots since 2012, one of very few players to convert at least 37 percent on at least 4.5 attempts per 36 minutes while playing over 4,000 minutes in that time span.
Of the 79 players that attempted at least 3.5 catch-and-shoot field goals per game last season, Parsons' 59.4 effective field-goal percentage tied for 14th best, according to SportVU data released by the NBA in conjunction with STATS LLC.
More than that, though, Parsons shows an off-the-bounce creativity that both Marion and Carter lacked. Parsons averaged 6.2 drives per game last season, according to the SportVU data, significantly more than any non-Monta Ellis player on the Mavericks. The guys he'll be replacing in the lineup—Carter and Marion—averaged only 4.2 per game combined, according to the SportVU data.
Of the 59 players that played in at least 50 games and averaged at least 4.0 drives per game, Parsons' 50.2 field-goal percentage on drives ranked 15th best, two spots ahead of Ellis. Ellis ranked first among that group in points created via drive per game, while Parsons ranked 24th.
It stands to reason that each of those aforementioned numbers will spike as Parsons now gets to share the floor with Dirk Nowitzki, a player nearly unparalleled in his ability to tilt the defense away from his teammates.
Even as Dirk has aged, his Dallas teammates have shot 2.2 percent better both from the field (47.0 percent to 44.8 percent) and from three-point range (37.4 percent to 35.2 percent) with him on the floor over the last five seasons combined, according to an analysis of data provided by NBA.com's media-only stats site (subscription required).
If Parsons receives a similar shooting bump from playing with Nowitzki, he'd be dangerously close to hitting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three, something only six players have done in the last five seasons.
Parsons raises the ceiling of Dallas' offense just as he did for the Rockets. Houston scored 5.4 more points per 100 possessions with Parsons on the floor last season, and if he spends as much of his floor time playing with Nowitzki as he did with Harden and Howard, he'll probably wind up with similar splits next season.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle likes to stagger his rotation a little differently than other coaches when it comes to star-minute distribution, though, so it's likely Parsons will spend at least a little more time carrying second-unit offenses than he did a season ago.
Parsons is unlikely to move the needle much as a defender—he was almost as much a problem for Houston on D as was Harden. Luckily for Parsons, he wasn't Dallas' only move this offseason. The Mavs traded for Tyson Chandler to improve the interior defense, and they signed Al-Farouq Aminu to check bigger wings and some quicker power forwards.
Those moves, along with the signings of Richard Jefferson and Jameer Nelson, when coupled with the continued presence of Nowitzki and Ellis, allow Parsons to stay in his lane doing what he does best: filling in the blanks around a star offensive player.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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