It's been almost a week since the Grizzlies announced the signing of Chandler Parsons to a four-year max deal. If not the single biggest get in Memphis free agency history, it was definitely one of the best signings the Grizzlies have made, and there was plenty of rejoicing in Grizz Nation. But now that the high has worn off, it's time to take a look at just what this signing means, what new dimensions Chandler Parsons brings to the Grizzlies, and how he could usher in an evolution away from Grit and Grind.
Parsons' most obvious addition to the Grizzlies is outside shooting. For his career, Parsons has shot 38% from beyond the arc, and last season, on 251 attempts, Parsons hit over 41% of his threes. Just look at Parsons' shot chart from last season.
That is one sexy shot chart. For so long, the official motto of the Grizzlies' offseason, of their very existence, was, "we need shooters." Parsons fills that role, providing space for a team that's possessed such a dearth of it in past years. Parsons is also a willing shooter. Per 100 possessions, Parsons averages nearly 7 three-point attempts. Those aren't Steph Curry numbers, but they're still a good step up from some of Memphis' more recent wings.
The outside shooting isn't all Parsons brings. He's also a capable ball handler, possessing the ability to create his own shot off the dribble. As Ian Levy at Fansided detailed in his piece about the Grizzlies and Parsons, even the decent shooters that Memphis has had haven't been able to create much offense on their own. Parsons' addition gives them that new dimension, and more importantly, allows the Grizzlies to generate offense from other places, alleviating some of the pressure on Mike Conley and Marc Gasol to be the sole drivers of the offense. This means more opportunities to work off-the-ball for Mike, while still preventing defenders from sagging into the paint to pester Marc.
As the league continues to play with small lineups, Parsons gives the Grizzlies the key to unlocking their own form of small ball. Standing at the nice height of 6'9", Parsons possesses the size to play power forward. During his brief stint in Dallas, he played just over a third of his minutes at the four, a look that provided mostly positive results for the Mavs. Memphis could look to augment its offense by doing the same with Parsons. Once Brandan Wright is healthy, they could also play Parsons and Wright together for a front court with athleticism out the wazoo.
Likely Parsons' biggest issue with the Grizzlies will be defense. Parsons has never been known for his defensive prowess (he's posted a 108 defensive rating each of the past four seasons, per Basketball-Reference), and he's coming off a knee surgery, which certainly won't help things. Fortunately, the Grizzlies can put defensive playmakers (read: Tony Allen) around Parsons to make his job easier, or, at the very least, to help hide him.
It's also worth noting, as Levy does in his above referenced piece, that Parsons has (according to one advanced defensive metric) managed to be an average defender over the past two seasons, with a Defensive Box Plus Minus of 0.0, a number that's right around what Courtney Lee has posted for his career (0.1). This stat shouldn't be taken to be a sure sign that Parsons will hold up as average, but it supports the thought that Parsons won't be an abject disaster on the defensive side of the ball. Add that to what Parsons brings offensively, and the Grizzlies are left with a huge net positive.
A lot of this is still conjecture, of course. It remains to be seen what style of play and what offensive sets Fizdale will implement with the Grizz, as well as how he'll manage his rotations and distribute minutes. But even without knowing that, Parsons' signing certainly adds another weapon to the arsenal, one for which the Grizz have been searching for a long time.