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The Ghosts of Chandler Parsons

The past, present, and future of the largest free agency signing in their history haunt the Memphis Grizzlies.

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It would’ve worked, you know.

It can never be proven, but it would’ve worked. The organization that had wandered in the desert for years searching for that missing piece, that player to help maximize their Core Four while bridging to something new and hopefully bigger and better..they had found him.

He was there...

Chandler Parsons had all the makings of a future Memphis Grizzlies star when it comes to ability. Size at 6’10”, skill as both a shooter and creator off the dribble, the capacity to create while cultivating mismatches through basic pick and roll and other offensive sets...the potential was off the charts. He had never, ever, been a player in the pros that someone looked at as a focus of an offense, and yet here he was - a scorer who had earned attention from the likes of the Portland Trail Blazers and Grizzlies for a big money contract.

The former SEC Player of the Year and Florida legend was finally going to make his mark in the NBA as the key piece he surely believed he always would be.

That player would never arrive in Memphis. Chandler Parsons would...but the player he had been, in hindsight, was gone.

Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Imagine watching old film of Chandler Parsons...what he once Chandler Parsons. Seeing the way you once moved, the explosiveness off of screens, the ability to cut and plant and use your frame to take advantage of some of the very best athletes in the world. To be one of the best at your position among the elite who play the game of basketball at the highest of levels, to play so well as to be an icon at your university. To know that you can do it...or at least, you could do it.

We all are told by the game we love in one way or another that we eventually can no longer play that game at a high level - whether it is pee-wee, high school, college, or for a select few the pros. Our bodies fail us, and when that time comes we look back at old tape or film of who we were and in some ways it is haunting. It is a reminder of our own mortality - that once upon a time, you were physically better than you are now, and the slow march of the years will only continue to grind along. It is like watching a person who passed athlete who died before the individual he or she inhabited.

There is a period of mourning for that a way, it never ends.

There is a $24.1 million hole in the Memphis Grizzlies roster.

Chandler Parsons has only played in 73 games out of a possible 200 for Memphis, including the 2017 NBA Playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. That means that a team already limited by poor trade dealings in the past has had a player meant to be their third “star”, paid to be that level of contributor, on the floor for 36.5% of the games since he has arrived in Memphis. And even when Chandler has played, he has rarely, if ever, been to the level of what he was before.

In base scoring/shooting statistics (points per game, shooting percentage, three point percentage), Chandler Parsons’ career averages (including his time in Memphis) are 13 points, 46.6% overall, and 37.6% from beyond the arc. Over those 73 games, Chandler Parsons has met or gone over those marks on select occasions.

  • Points per game- Six times (One in 2016-2017, five in 2017-2018, none this season - although he had multiple occasions where he scored 12 points in a game).
  • Field goal percentage- 23 times (Nine in 2016-2017, 13 in 2017-2018, once this season).
  • Three point field goal percentage- 24 times (Eight in 2016-2017, 15 in 2017-2018, once this season).

There were times Parsons looked the part, able to be what Memphis brought him here to be...what they needed him to be. Six made threes and another high-scoring performance against Houston last season, 15 good points in a losing effort against Toronto...flashes of what could have been.

But that guy showed up about as many times as owner Robert Pera, for whatever reason, has in Memphis over the years. A vast majority of the time, it has been a player dealing with the reality of his once explosive frame fading into the mystic, the ability that had so many excited now gone through no real fault of his own. Despite his best efforts, the treatments and innovative workouts, the hype videos and interviews saying how well he is doing...time and again, the fall from whatever temporary high has been the only consistent part of Chandler Parsons as a Memphis Grizzly.

Because of this ghost that now resides on the Grizzlies bench and will probably stay there the remainder of the season, Memphis has to fill the void as best they can. Garrett Temple, Shelvin Mack, Kyle Anderson...they can only do so much and be expected to be players that contribute in the best ways they can. They are not supposed to have to be the best wings on this roster - they are supplementary pieces who often times are called upon to do more than they paycheck and physical ability says they should have to do.

The void is very, very real...and it cripples the Memphis Grizzlies.

So what of the future?

Assuming Chandler cannot play again this season - perhaps a large assumption 30 games in, but given the history of Parsons and his health not at all out of the realm of possibility - the Grizzlies have few options available to them. Parting with him in a trade is next to impossible, especially considering the cost to do it once he is “healthy” - opposing teams only take on bad contracts when draft picks come back in the deal, and Memphis should not be interested in parting with any firsts to move off of the Parsons contract. Even if optimistic

It limits the immediate future in that the tradeable pieces - JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple’s expiring deals, Wayne Selden Jr. and MarShon Brooks with a couple second round picks - have limited value in any move. It of course caps out Memphis over the summer still, to an extent, unless a buyout can be negotiated and can save the Grizzlies some money. Even then, the dead cap left behind will hinder Memphis through the end of the Parsons deal, in 2020.

That buyout, if it indeed comes, will be a depressing end to what has already been a disappointing opportunity gone awry. Chandler Parsons could’ve been, and should’ve been, the answer to a question the Grizzlies have been trying to answer for some time. They’ve been chasing the ghosts of Rudy Gay, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, and Shareef Abdur-Raheem, wings who were good-to-great for Memphis but were unable, for whatever reason, to get the team to the finish line that every NBA franchise is chasing - a title.

Parsons was supposed to be the guy. Now, the Grizzlies are left with the specter of what may have been, and are haunted by what that has become.

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