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Believing in Chandler Parsons

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He will never be the player that he was, but Chandler Parsons can still help the Memphis Grizzlies

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

If you only saw his magnificent shooting performances on Instagram, you would probably think that Chandler Parsons is by far the greatest basketball player of all time. The whole “MJ vs LeBron” debate may be fun, but it really is just a competition for second place behind apparently the greatest white American basketball player. Parsons’ social media basketball greatness is rivaled only by my own excellence on SnapChat (I have never missed a shot when the video is posted, and that’s all that matters).

Unfortunately, basketball on Instagram isn’t real basketball, and playing basketball against real opponents has been the issue for Chandler Parsons during his time in Memphis. More specifically, not playing basketball has been the real issue as he has only played 70 games over the last two years.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It would definitely be tragic if Parsons was terrible when he is on the court. But his injury struggles are even more heartbreaking when you consider that he has actually been pretty good when he is on the court.

Although it may make you want to light a pitchfork just thinking about it, there is a reason the Memphis Grizzlies offered Parsons a four-year, $94 million deal in the summer of 2016. He was never going to be LeBron James like David Fizdale may have thought, but he presented a combination of size, scoring, and playmaking that the Grizzlies have never had from a wing.

Obviously, injuries have kept Parsons from being the player that the Grizzlies thought they had signed. However, even a diminished Chandler Parsons has shown himself to be a good contributor when he’s on the court. While he appeared almost as if he carried dumbbells around his ankles in his first year in Memphis, he looked rejuvenated and far more explosive in his minutes last year.

To be sure, his numbers from last year don’t exactly jump off the screen at you, but they do paint a positive picture of Parsons. In just over 19 minutes per game, he averaged 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists—certainly not $94 million numbers by any stretch of the imagination. Yet his per 36 minutes numbers were generally very similar to those of his entire career. Also, his eFG% (57%) and 3P% (42%) were both career-highs.

The numbers do not lie. As far as basketball skill and talent goes, Parsons is still close to the same player he was in Houston and Dallas when he’s available to play. Availability, however, is a skill in and of itself, and he has simply not been very available for most of the past two seasons.

And the problem with availability is that it’s not a talent that you can simply improve with practice. Parsons can work with the best trainers in the world, do his fancy core and stability exercises, and refrain from playing back-to-backs. But at the end of the day, his body will simply hold up—or it won’t. If the last two years are any indication, it seems that his body just simply can’t handle the rigors of the day-to-day strain of NBA basketball.

So what can the Memphis Grizzlies realistically expect from him next year?

I believe that he was healthier last year than he appeared. According to Grizzlies PR, the nearly month period from January to February he that missed was officially due to “knee soreness.” Unless there was some major structural damage in his knees (which obviously wasn’t the case considering that he played later in the season), the Grizzlies were probably being overly cautious with a $94 million investment in a lost season. It would also not make much sense to risk him in significant minutes once the playoffs were no longer a possibility.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With this optimistic theory in mind, it makes sense to expect an improved, “healthier” Chandler Parsons next year. Of course, his knees will never allow him to be the 17-5-5 player that he was in Dallas. But if he can play close to 20 minutes in 50-60 games off the bench this coming season, that would be a huge realistic win for both the Grizzlies and Parsons under the circumstances.

Considering that the Grizzlies should be going all in to compete for a playoff spot and that Parsons will be in the third year of his four-year contract, they will have no reason to hold him back any longer. If he misses significant time next year (which is definitely a possibility), mere “knee soreness” will likely not be the reason for it.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There is definitely still reason to be optimistic about Chandler Parsons in Memphis. If you look at him through the lens of a contract and the expectations of a star, you will always be disappointed. However, he is still a talented basketball player who can still be a meaningful contributor for the Memphis Grizzlies.

He just simply needs to find a way to play.