We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:
Does Chandler Parsons have the talent (and health) to change the Grizzlies’ course?
For three consecutive seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies had won at least 50 games and were a tough out in the playoffs. They seemed just some shooting away from being a contender. However, last season the Grizzlies slipped to 42 wins, and there was one simple reason: Injuries.
The Grizzlies had 28 players come through their roster over the course of last season, an NBA record. Guys were going down faster than a Lord of the Rings movie. And it wasn’t just back end guys, key players out injured. Marc Gasol missed 30 games with a broken foot. Mike Conley missed 20 games with Achilles tendonitis (and still got a record NBA contract). Zach Randolph missed 29 games and looked like a guy losing his race with Father Time.
To change this course, the Grizzlies have turned to a man who had two right knee surgeries in the last 18 months.
Does Chandler Parsons have the talent to change the Grizzlies course? Yes.
Does Chandler Parsons have the health to execute that change? That’s what the Grizzlies are betting on.
Parsons brings more than a pretty face, he brings what the Grizzlies have needed on the wing for some time. First, he’s strong on the catch-and-shoot, and he is a willing shooter from beyond the arc — he shot 41.4 percent from three last season until his injury (for his career he’s 38 percent from three). When Conley is running the pick-and-roll with Gasol or another big (Brandan Wright, perhaps) opponents can’t help off Parsons or they pay.
More than that, Parsons is also a second ball handler on the perimeter for the Grizzlies. For years the shooters the Grizzlies brought in (who never quite panned out) didn’t have this dimension. Parsons can create his own shot. All the weight of shot creation no longer falls on the combination of Conley’s drives and Gasol’s passing. Part of the reason Parsons chose Memphis over Portland (for the exact same $94 million contract) is the chance to get the ball in his hands more often. Parsons is going to be handed the keys to the offense far more in Memphis than he saw in Dallas.
Finally, Parsons is also a solid defender, so that part of the Grizzlies’ identity will not change with new coach David Fizdale. Memphis has strong defenders in Conley and Tony Allen on the perimeter, Parsons will defend some threes and fours (depending on matchups) but has shown he can do this fairly well.
It’s easy to picture a Grizzlies team where Parsons is the key third offensive player that opens things up for Gasol and Conley. Parsons can play the three or a small ball four and that gives Fizdale lineup and matchup options.
With Parsons, on paper, the Grizzlies return to being a 50-win team that is a tough out in the playoffs. He may have a pretty face, but he’s a perfect fit for “grit ‘n grind.”
The only question is can Memphis keep Parsons and the rest of their stars on the court?
Gasol skipped the Olympics and reportedly is doing well with his rehab, but foot issues and big men are a scary combination. Was Conley’s Achilles tendonitis a one-off thing that needed rest, or the first signs of a guy who will battle this for years as his body starts to slow down over the course of his new deal? How much does Zach Randolph have left in the tank? A guy whose game has always been below the rim can age fast when he loses half a step.
Then there is Parson’s surgically reconstructed right knee. Two seasons ago he had hybrid microfracture surgery on it, then last season he tore the meniscus in the same knee. He has done is rehab and says he’s good to go. Still, is the knee stable enough to take on a larger load for 82 games?
Memphis could have looked at last season and said “it’s time for a total rebuild,” torn the team apart, traded for picks and young players, and moved on from grit ‘n grind. They didn’t. They finally got the wing shooter and shot creator they have been seeking for years, and they got the rest of the band back together.
Parsons has the talent to lift the Grizzlies up.
Whether or not his body will let him do it is the question.