51 Questions: Does Chandler Parsons have the talent to change the Grizzlies’ course?

chandler parsons grizzlies mavericks
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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.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.