The 2016 offseason was a strange time in the NBA. Money was thrown around and given to players without a care in the world, and many teams have started to feel the repercussions of their decisions.
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of those teams, having given Chandler Parsons a four-year, $94 million max contract. The hope was that Parsons would be the perfect fit on the wing to provide more shooting and playmaking as (then) new head coach David Fizdale planned to transform the Grizzlies and bring them into the modern basketball era.
On paper, the signing made a lot of sense. Although Parsons was coming off some relatively injury-prone seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, he could handle the ball and initiate offense while also contributing off-ball as an elite shooter (39.5 percent from beyond the arc with the Mavericks).
Parsons’ ability to be a multi-dimensional offensive force on the wing meant he was always going to have suitors, and if hadn’t suffered any additional injuries since the signing, it’s likely that very few people would be talking about how much of an albatross the contract is.
Unfortunately, we all must live in the real world and accept the fact that it’s simply unknown whether Parsons can give the Grizzlies more than half of a season of play moving forward. Even if Parsons is able to stay healthy, will he be able to carve out a consistent rotation spot now that Memphis has added other wings such as Kyle Anderson (who should see time at the four) and Garrett Temple?
The short answer is yes. If the Grizzlies rotation plays out the way that it should (including recent rumors that the team will bring Jaren Jackson Jr. off the bench to start the season), Parsons could be in line to be the backup power forward, a position where his floor-spacing will be a big boost for the offense and his decreasing athleticism won’t be as much of a liability.
Although his ability to initiate the offense and get to the rim has severely decreased in recent seasons, Parsons is still a capable playmaker and quality shooter, something that the Grizzlies can never have enough of on the floor.
In his limited playing time last season, Parsons shot 42.1 percent on 3.4 3-point attempts per game, making him a serious threat that defenses have to pay attention to. If Jackson Jr. is used as the backup center to start the season, Parsons’ floor-spacing would provide the young big man ample space to work on his post game, and if the Grizzlies get more creative, Parsons and Jackson Jr. can run big-big pick-and-rolls/pops to unlock even more open looks for the two.
Even with all the injuries he has suffered in recent seasons, Parsons is still able to light it up offensively on occasion, relying on his 3-point shooting and crafty moves to get to the rim. When Parsons is hot from beyond the arc, the Grizzlies offense recieves a big boom, and Parsons can demoralize opponents by hitting tough 3-pointers and using a plethora of pump fakes to get open.
With one of Dillon Brooks or Garrett Temple in such a bench unit, the lineups would have much more offensive potential with Parsons on the floor. If J.B. Bickerstaff staggers his starters, such a lineup could also potentially include Mike Conley or Kyle Anderson, players that can further diversify and improve the offense.
Parsons’ ability to find open teammates and set up quality offense from time to time is another key reason he should be able to find himself a consistent role. Last season Parsons averaged 3.6 assists per-36 minutes, and he has shown in previous seasons in the league that he is a more than capable secondary or tertiary ball-handler and creator. While Parsons has never been known for his defense, his playmaking continues to be an underrated aspect of his skill set, similar to new Grizzly Garrett Temple.
All in all, Parsons can still shoot and create for others, two key skills on offense that should get him consistent playing time if he stays healthy. While Memphis did add Temple and Anderson in the offseason, moving forward Parsons should be able to carve out a role as more of a four than a traditional wing. In that spot, Parsons’ shooting can provide more floor-spacing, and his ability to handle the ball and get to the rim could cause issues for opposing big men that are matched up on him.
Chandler Parsons will likely never be more than an extreme disappointment as a Grizzly. His contract is throwing a major wrench in the team’s ability to add players during offseasons, and his inconsistency both in his health and his on-floor contributions continue to frustrate fans. However, he can still diversify and add to the Grizzlies’ offense through his shooting and play making abilities, making it likely he will be a key contributor off the bench as the team looks to return to the playoffs.