It’s easy to simply say that Chandler Parsons makes everyone on the Memphis Grizzlies better.
His skill set has been dissected and evaluated. Between his offensive versatility, his ability to score the rock, and his size to play both forward positions, the potential is there. Of course, his injury history has been well documented and there are valid concerns about whether he can make it through a full season healthy. But if health is assumed (a big if), this writer and others have called Parsons the best wing this Grit and Grind generation of the Memphis Grizzlies has had.
But who exactly will benefit most from the arrival of Parsons? Which players will see greater space to work with, or will be able to create off the dribble or in the post? Who will now defend smaller players thanks to Parsons’s size and positional flexibility? A great measure of a player’s impact on any team is how he makes his teammates better...
Who will Chandler Parsons make better? There are three prime candidates in particular.
“The Grindfather” is expected to start alongside Parsons on the wing on opening night for Memphis. While this is not set in stone, regardless of where Allen is in the lineup he will surely be playing some serious minutes against a former foe of his. In the past, Parsons has lit TA and his Grizzlies up from the perimeter, launching threes at pretty epic clips and creating both off the dribble and in transition.
Calling Parsons simply a spot-up shooter is doing him a disservice. He can create for himself and others off the dribble, he can drive to the rim on cuts and off of various screens, and he can also take advantage of mismatches against smaller and less disciplined defenders.
So how does this help Tony? In a word: space. Tony Allen’s strength as an offensive player is his ability to cut and slash in the paint off of screens and inattentive defenders. Here’s a great example from a tremendous TA performance from last season against the LA Lakers.
Yes, Tony Allen shot 35.7% last season from beyond the arc, his best mark since his rookie season in Boston with the Celtics in 2004-2005. But he’s never shot more than 47 three-pointers in a season as a Memphis Grizzly. It isn’t his game, and his opponents of course know that.
The paint is wide open, and Allen’s defender clearly wasn’t too worried about Allen. Especially early in games, Tony finds ways to get to the rim off of ball-watching or poor effort defending him.
Now imagine a world where Tony Allen is able to slash at will. Such a world will exist with Chandler Parsons in Memphis, and especially when it’s Parsons playing the stretch four. A Mike Conley/Wade Baldwin IV/Allen/Parsons/Marc Gasol lineup could potentially be a destructive force. Multiple ball-handlers, multiple creators, multiple shooters, and a ton of room for Allen to slash and drive at the rim.
You can get the same kind of look with Brandan Wright or even Zach Randolph at the Center position. What you perhaps lose defensively, you still gain in terms of room for Allen to slash, be it by Wright’s pick and roll acumen or Randolph’s jab-step jumper game from outside the paint. Replace Baldwin with Troy Daniels and again, lost defense is replaced by elite outside shooting.
The best lineup in theory is that Conley/Baldwin/Allen/Parsons/Gasol look, however. Simplicity is Tony Allen’s best friend, and that look allows for him to slash and defend, doing what he does best by creating chaos on both ends of the floor.
The go-to crunch time look for Memphis in the past has been the Conley/Gasol pick and roll/pop. It gives defenses fits, as these pictures from Memphis vs. Indiana last October show:
Mahinmi is flat-footed and not in the best position to react to what comes next from Marc Gasol.
Tremendous vision and understanding of movement and angles. No Indiana defender can explode out to recover and block Gasol’s lane to the rim. An easy two-point bucket is the end result.
It isn’t just on the drive that this works for the Grizzlies. Gasol, of course, has some serious mid-range touch.
Mahinmi is a solid rim protector, but his footwork is questionable, at least in this game. He again is in mid-movement, and his momentum is going away from Gasol. Same mistake, different area of the floor.
An easy opportunity for Marc Gasol. Lots of room to operate, a converted jumper and another assist for Mike Conley.
Conley’s assist numbers have never been anything too impressive. In fairness, it isn’t the largest aspect of his game and it isn’t like he’s had offensive weapons like Gasol to work and develop this kind of chemistry with. Zach Randolph’s game remains post based, and Brandan Wright is a monster on the pick and roll when healthy. Emphasis on “when healthy” (more on him in a moment).
Now? Chandler Parsons can add a new wrinkle to the pick and roll game with Mike Conley. He can extend the range and space to beyond the arc, setting picks for Mike and forcing opposing defenders even further away from the paint than Marc Gasol could, or would. Now three-point opportunities can come off the pick and pop play, and it will mean one less larger wing or big to protect the rim so Mike can attack the rim when players like George Hill, now on the upstart Utah Jazz, choose to go over the top of screens against him. And he can convert at a steady clip on shot attempts, improving Mike’s assist numbers and perhaps helping Conley get to that elusive All-Star Game.
Breathing room and space to operate. Mike Conley’s skill set should be on display now more than ever before with Chandler Parsons by his side.
Wright’s elite athleticism and pick and roll ability have shown even in his limited work in Memphis.
Myles Turner has to help George Hill, who was not able to get over top of Wright’s pick cleanly. This over-help is exactly what Wright and Conley want.
While Conley could perhaps hit that floater here, in this case he is putting the ball up in the air for an athlete to make a play.
Can Chandler Parsons, at 6’9”, play as a pick and roll ball handler?
Absolutely, he can.
Dirk Nowitzki is not an expert screen setter. But he does enough to give Parsons room.
For Parsons, that is a high percentage attempt from three.
The beauty of Parsons in this role, especially alongside Wright? It can be done in a variety of looks. Conley/Allen/Parsons/Wright/Gasol. Conley/Baldwin/James Ennis/Parsons/Wright. On and on and on, and this can create so many different kinds of matchups and mismatches. Can you imagine Ryan Anderson of the Houston Rockets trying to get over the top of a Brandan Wright screen? Or Omer Asik trying to roll back on Wright after helping off to not give Parsons a clean look?
Game to game, week to week, from the wing to the stretch four, Parsons can handle the ball and create for himself and for others off the pick and roll/pop. For the expert of the pick and roll that is Brandan Wright, this makes his ability at the rim that much more dangerous, especially if Head Coach David Fizdale can create match-ups that put the opposition in a lose-lose situation.
Is it just these three who stand to benefit from Parsons? Of course not; Parsons and Gasol pick and rolls could be deadly, Zach Randolph should not see double teams in the post when Parsons is on his side, and Parsons himself will benefit from being in an offense where his coach is going to put him in a place to create and be a focal point.
But Allen, Conley, and Wright stand to see clearer paints, cleaner looks, and creative mismatches now that a player with the skill set of Chandler Parsons is in Beale Street Blue.