Thanks to strong defense and a high basketball IQ, rookie Chandler Parsons has quickly found a home with coach Kevin McHale and the Houston Rockets.
BY: HIREN JOSHI
“With the 38th pick in the 2011NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select Chandler Parsons, from the University of Florida.”
As a fan that’s grown up watching every pick in the NBA draft, it’s clear that when NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver comes out in the second round and starts presenting draft picks, the dust has settled. The bright lights are suddenly a bit dimmer, and the chances of, say, the 38th pick having a significant impact anytime soon are slim.
Don’t get me wrong; second-round picks have succeeded. Just look at players like Manu Ginobili, Jeff Hornacek and Dennis Rodman; all players who have seen success at extremely high levels in basketball. Players are drafted early for a reason, but sometimes that hidden gem gets left behind.
The Rockets may have found one in Chandler Parsons
Parsons, who is no stranger to basketball, got his basketball genes from his grandfather Don Parsons, who played at Rutgers and was later drafted by the New York Knicks. Chandler saw immediate success in the sport, leading his high school team, the Silver Hawks, to a 31-3 record and a 5A state championship. He averaged 21.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, catching the attention of many college scouts, and was a Jordan All-American, as well as a first-team 5A All-State selection his senior year in high school.
A bright collegiate career was knocking at the door, and Parsons didn’t have to go far to answer. In his four years at Florida, he averaged 10.2 points along with 6 rebounds. The numbers aren’t stellar, but the all-around production was consistent. He ranks 12th all-time in school history with 1,452 points and was the first Gator to be named SEC Player of the Year, in 2010-11.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that Parsons has made the leap from college to the pros pretty effortlessly, even outplaying that of Rockets prized lottery pick Marcus Morris. Not only has Parsons learned on the fly, but he has started 43 out of the 49 games played this season for the Rockets. He has been an essential piece to multiple victories this season, and many of those victories have given the star-less Rockets an opportunity to compete for a spot in the playoffs.
When Morris – whose pro game as ready as a scorer but not nearly as much as a defender – found himself in the D-League early this season, Parsons took advantage to step into that small forward role. He relished the opportunity to take matters into his own hands, something Rockets coach Kevin McHale instantly reacted to, not to mention Parsons’ aggressiveness and propensity for sterling defensive play.
Parsons quickly proved to fans what Rockets personnel already knew: he was an all-around basketball player, not superior at any one thing but well above average in most. Though his offensive game has struggled, his defense reigned supreme. Parsons excels in the fundamentals. His technique is impressive for a rookie, and he’s already been given the task of guarding the toughest perimeter player on the opposing team, a precious role considering the nature of the defense-conscientious McHale.
Parsons has solidified his role as a starter and shows no signs of giving it up. He is averaging 9.2 points and 5 rebounds, and boasts an efficiency rating of plus-11.71. He was recently No. 7 on a top-ten rookie rankings list by ESPN.com’s Grantland website.
According to Synergy Sports, opponents have scored 55 points on 91 isolation possessions against Parsons. That’s 0.604 points per possession. For a rookie who now has a huge responsibility on defense, those numbers put Parsons in the 84th percentile in terms of points per possession allowed, an incredible accomplishment. The promising part to the story is that he’s only going to get better as he goes through different situations each game. Parsons has proven that you can count on him to make an individual decision on defense, based on what he sees happening on the court. It sounds like common sense, right? But, as we see on so many possessions, players make silly mistakes, something he has more or less managed to avoid in his freshman year.
Parsons has become an instant fan favorite in Houston. Rockets broadcaster and former player Matt Bullard has given Parsons a new nickname, and for many it has caught on. Chandler “Bang” has spread across the city, due to his knack early this season for throwing down high-flying putback dunks. The name was certified and branded after Parsons slammed one home over dunk maestro Blake Griffin, and then gave Griffin a cheekish smile as if to say, “You’re not the only one that can throw it down, Blake.” A classic moment in what has been the most promising story for the Rockets this season.
Parsons’ role has been compared to a Shane Battier of sorts, but as more games are played, Parsons is showing signs of life on the offensive end. It’s been an uphill battle for the rookie, who is shooting 32 percent from 3 and an abysmal 47 percent from the free-throw line. Confidence is a big key in all this, and Parsons has lately shown, no matter what his percentages are, he’s not afraid to take a shot when needed. Earlier in the season, that philosophy was not helping the Rockets, but the line drive shots have decreased and Parsons is finding the arc. He was a decent shooter in college, so the potential is there for him to become a consistent threat from the outside, which would only make him more devastating for opponents.
With 15 games left for the Rockets, the 38th pick from Florida has become a key ingredient to the team’s goal of making the playoffs. He’s a big reason why they’re even in the position they find themselves in, challenging for the postseason with a flawed make-up. The Western Conference is constantly rumbling, and Chandler Parsons finds himself right in the heart of the action.