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The Process That is Chandler Parsons

It’s early. But it’s working.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

A mere season ago, Chandler Parsons was talked about more for his frolics on Instagram than he was for his on-court play. Every NBA player has ups and downs over the course of a season, but for Parsons it was an unfortunate string of bad press that stretched the length of the entire campaign. After utilizing a full offseason to rest and regroup for his second season on Beale Street, Parsons undoubtedly was ready to turn the tide.

Grizzlies’ fans had other ideas though, booing Parsons several times already at home early in the season. While fans booing their team’s own players is a bit passé, the frustration with Parsons is understandable. His injuries were preventing him from doing anything the franchise paid him big money to do, namely, shooting the round ball in to the hoop from beyond the arc.

Thus far this season, Parsons has looked much better in spurts, largely because he’s been able to make corrections to the jumper that got him paid in the first place. To understand the improvements Parsons has made mechanically, it’s helpful to first take a look at his horrid form during his first season with the Grizzlies.

Last season, Parsons’ form was broken from his gather all the way through the rest of his shooting motion. To begin, his knees were bent at about a one hundred-twenty degree angle prior to launch. That works for many shooters, but Parsons has historically bent his knees closer to a ninety-degree angle on a good shot. The lack of bend at the knees prohibited Parsons from getting the bounce he needed to explode on his jumper at all. That, coupled with bending forward on many shots, made Parsons’ form inconsistent, causing a lack of elevation from the jump which resulted in countless shots flatlining.

The second flaw came on the rise. His body is as straight as a board, which is typical of the sharpshooter. However, a healthy Parsons sways more as the ball is cocked back above his head, ready to be launched. That means Parsons generally relaxes his body, allowing his lower body to project forward with a slight leg kick. This relaxes his shoulders and causes a sway. That sway gives Parsons’ shot a tremendous amount of elevation - the necessary elevation that gave his jumper its scary reputation.

On many jumpers last season, Parsons’ form was not just stiff. He was actively overcompensating, shoving off from the three-point line to leap toward the rim because his legs were not there.

As if all of that was not enough to make a once beautiful jumper look broke, Parsons frequently looked awkward on his landing. His landing expectedly looked like that of a guy struggling to recover from a major knee surgery. Constantly worried about landing on bum legs is a recipe for a weak jumper every time.

Not just one, but all elements of Parsons’ jumper were holding him back last year.

Through a handful of games this season, Parsons’ form already looks considerably improved. On his gather, he is squatting lower to the ground, giving him the bounce that was not there last season. He has also slightly adjusted his feet. His slip in mechanics last season caused him to pull a lot of shots left or right of the center of the rim, so this season there is a noticeable slant in his feet to the left side of the rim. That allows his shoulders to stay locked in so he’s not pulling off center on his shot.

Parsons has always been a straight up and down guy on his rise, but he is up on his toes a little more this season. Eliminating flat-footedness is probably a result of him feeling more comfortable with his knees now, but it helps give him the rise he needs to properly cock the ball back while going through his relatively long shooting motion before landing regardless.

Another element that has returned fully this season is the sway. Parsons is back to dipping those shoulders and pushing his legs forward, which leads me to believe that his health is coming back to him. The sway might be the element most responsible for the return of his beautiful, arcing jumper. Without it, the gather does not matter and neither does the landing. The shot was always going to be flat without Parsons relearning to relax his body.

All of the best shooters in the NBA have one thing in common. Their middle finger is the last to touch the ball on the release. That’s no different for Parsons. The middle finger gives the ball its last flick of propulsion, giving it a nice spin for a soft and easy landing on the rim. It’s the final touch to the return of a shooting masterpiece.

With an enormous amount of games still left to be played, there’s a chance Parsons’ shot is a bit of fool’s gold. However, I think that’s unlikely. Aside from regaining his shooting form, he has displayed a willingness to absorb contact on drives again. He has also regained his ability to slide in front of a ball handler nimbly with his daddy longlegs.

The evidence is mounting game after game that Parsons’ improvements are here to stay. For a franchise with its two best players already suffering from injuries, the Grizzlies need Parsons to be a semblance of the third star they signed him to be. Even if his star can’t shine as bright as it once did, the rejuvenation of his shooting form should at least open up the court for the plethora of slashers on the Grizzlies’ roster, as well as make the front office a little less sick about the deal they gave Parsons two offseasons ago.

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