NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Chandler Parsons A Surprise Starter For Rockets

Chandler Parsons has locked up a starting role with the Houston Rockets, and looks like a potential long-term answer ... if he can fix a few items. Rohan Cruyff breaks down Parsons and more in this week's NBA Rookie Power Rankings.

While Minnesota's Ricky Rubio and Cleveland's Kyrie Irving continue to pull away from the pack, the group behind them remains significantly more muddled. Indeed, the rankings of players 3-7 on this week's rankings are quite fluid, and even the inefficient scoring guards Brandon Knight and Iman Shumpert, who are at -12 and -17 offensive efficiencies on the season, jump into the fringes of the top-10 with notable performances.

Today's breakdown delves into the game of the Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons, one of seven rookies to start more than 10 games this season (with Rubio, Irving, Shumpert, Knight, Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker the others).

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Chandler Parsons

Disclaimer: The following is clearly an over-critique of a 38th pick, which on average, is this. For a second rounder, this is all trivial; for, arguably at this stage, a top-five rookie, it's a bit more warranted.

It wasn't a spectacular week for Chandler Parsons, #6 in our rankings a week ago. Over a four game stretch, he shot 6 for 26 (4 for 19 inside the arc) and collected a total of 7 rebounds over 86 minutes of play. His one decent offensive performance - Monday at against Minnesota - came in a handy Wolves' win.

The two most noticeable flaws to Parsons' game at this stage are his inability to catch and shoot effectively off screens and his curious finishing inconsistencies at the rim. Both stand out not for their flagrancy, but rather for their contrast with positives found elsewhere in his play. Parsons is a highly effective spot-up player, even at this early stage. Spacing the floor and shooting uncontested looks, more than anything else, define his offensive game. His jumper itself could use a bit of work, but his ability to identify where to be on the floor, both in transition and in the half court, is impressive.

In limited opportunities -- and I'd do well to again emphasize the tiny sample here -- his jumper in catch-and-shoot (or, more generally, with defenders in his vicinity) situations just hasn't looked the same. Catch-and-shoot naturally implies a level of body imbalance, but Parsons often introduces an extra degree of difficulty, an unnecessary amount of fade when a defender is close. This play against the Spurs on January 21st exemplifies this tendency:

Parsons obviously has adequate separation from Danny Green via the Scola screen. But just the mere threat of the late closeout is enough to make him fade lazily away and leave the jumper well short. Parsons isn't the most stationary of shooters in general. The exaggerated leg kick seen in the above play doesn't diverge too much from his kickout on open attempts, and Parsons' release often comes at a 5 to 10 degree angle from the vertical. So it isn't much of a surprise that the threat of a challenge exacerbates this tendency.

That a jump shooter, a second-round rookie no less, shoots worse when pressured is hardly ground breaking. But Parsons clearly has the form and release to be used in a more expansive (off curls, even off the step back) role.

At the rim, Parsons loves the left-handed, rolling finish. This would be great news if he were better at it. Unfortunately, Parsons goes to the move rather indiscriminately - against taller forwards, against shorter players, after he's convincingly blown by a defender, before he has any meaningful separation, and so forth. This particular drive, where he easily gets by the much smaller Greivis Vasquez, ends with a meek left-handed missed layup, one that drives Houston's commentator to openly lament: "At 6'9", hammer the ball! Are you kidding me?"

Again, it's vexing purely in the relative. This is a guy that can finish. He's shown the ability to get up both from a stand still and with the ball in his hands. In the modern NBA, effective off-hand finishing isn't a trivial skill either. But a player with Parsons' skills should simply be finishing more often at the rim. At 60.6 percent on the year, Parsons ranks about 4 percent below the league average for forwards, and this includes his obscene post-offensive rebound finishing (15 for 22). Without his second chance game, this falls to 56 percent, well below the league average for NBA guards.

In many ways, Parsons is the perfect fourth or fifth player to build an offense with. He contributes without demanding possessions, his value in floor spacing is noticeable on virtually all play-types, and, in the early season, he's been one of the NBA's most efficient isolation defenders. A poor week doesn't change any of those things, and correcting two areas he's already shown proficiency in (finishing, jump shooting) can only further cement him in the top-10.

Parsons leaps into our top five this week as a function of relatively blasé play from his peers and his own well-defined starting role, one he's excelled in for a month now. Moving forward, he clearly has a shot at landing consistently in the top-3, which, for a 38th pick, is mighty impressive.

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All stats, above and below, are through Wednesday's action and come via Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata, and MySynergySports.com. "Efficiency differentials" refer to the difference in points/100 possessions from the league average of the relevant season.

Rk Player Team Relevant Statistics Prev.
1. Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers +8.5 offensive efficiency differential, 28.5% usage, 35.5% assist rate, 17% turnover rate
1
Irving continues his astonishing rookie season; a game after tearing up New Jersey (admittedly no huge feat these days), Irving dumped the Celtics in style. Three rookie guards have had PERs in excess of 20 (Kyrie's at 22.6) in the modern era - Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Chris Paul.
2. Ricky Rubio
Timberwolves +1.5 offensive efficiency differential, 42% assist rate
2
Like Irving, Rubio also did a great job keeping his turnovers down this week, committing just six over almost 120 minutes of play. Rubio's such a unique player that it's hard to come up with a comparison along the lines of the Magic/MJ/CP3 Irving one above. Only one rookie starter has ever had a higher assists/minutes number though -- Jamal Tinsley. Okay, that didn't go as planned. Nonetheless, Rubio's rookie year is proving to be equally historic, if in a radically different way from the scoring oriented Irving.
INJ MarShon Brooks
Nets +11 offensive efficiency differential, 24% usage, 11% assist rate, 9% turnover rate
3
New Jersey announced on Monday that Brooks will be out indefinitely with a fractured toe. We'll freeze him on these rankings for now, dropping him down as necessary based on the injury duration. And while he (and Nikola Vucevic, see below) are out, we'll add an extra two players to the rankings.
3. Enes Kanter
Jazz

16% offensive rebound rate, 24% defensive rebound rate, +4 offensive efficiency differential, 17% usage

5

The developing footwork of Enes Kanter is one of the more underrated rookie story lines of the season. It's unfortunate that broadcasts only bust out the super zoomed in, slow motion replays for dunks, but even in real-time, even in a game that was long over, and even against a questionable defender, this was nice to see last week:

At this point, the outside drop step from the right block is Kanter's best and arguably only legitimate offensive move. Everything else -- the spin to short jumper, the bull dozing inside move from the post-up -- is very questionable. But the makings of a strong offensive post game can all be found in the one move he has. Kanter re-orients himself well around the hoop after the spin, he keeps his pivot foot firmly established, and he has reasonable finishing ability. He still attempts way too many finesse shots around the rim, but if he can start taking advantage of his massive frame and going up stronger through contact, buckle up.

4. Chandler Parsons
Bucks
+6 offensive efficiency differential, 15.6% usage, 1.52 PPP after offensive rebounds 6

See above.

5. Jon Leuer
Bucks
+21.5 offensive efficiency differential, 16% usage, 60% true shooting
4

The completely unpredictable nature of Leuer's minutes distribution continues. After scoring 19 points on 9 for 11 shooting in 19 minutes of a reasonably close loss last Friday, Leuer played a combined 17 minutes over his next three games. So while his rate statistics increased almost across the board this week, it's hard to justify an upward move in the ranks.

6. Kawhi Leonard
Spurs
+0.5 offensive efficiency differential, 16% defensive rebound rate
--
Leonard makes the George Hill trade look smarter by the week. While he lacks the raw offensive ability and range of Hill, his overall scoring line isn't drastically different (4.8/10.6 FGA/36m to Hill's 4.6/10.6). And Leonard brings so much more overall. He's one of the best rebounders at his position league-wide, let alone among rookies, and his off-ball ability (11 for 18 field goals on cuts) is strong as well.
7. Markieff Morris Suns 20.7% defensive rebound rate, 0.95 PPP on post up offensive possessions (12th in NBA)
--
Morris is fourth in the '11 class in defensive rebound rate. He hasn't been shooting well recently, but his touch around the hoop has looked adequate even in that stretch. Morris' biggest problem offensively is his inability to significantly back down defenders on his back-to-basket moves; the result is jumper and hook attempts from further than optimal distances. As he gets stronger and learns to play off his defender more effectively, this could well change because his shot form itself looks fine.
8. Derrick Williams
Timberwolves -1.5 offensive efficiency differential, 26% threes
8
After starting the week strong in a win against San Antonio, Williams' minutes dropped again. He continues to struggle with the three-point shot (now 1 for his last 13), which is at least mildly surprising, given his 57 percent conversion rate from distance during his second year at Arizona. Given how many of his plays are designed to get him looks from range, his overall efficiencies simply won't pick up as long as his jumper is off.
9. Tristan Thompson
Cavaliers 4.7% block rate, 12.5% offensive rebound rate, 19.6% defensive rebound rate
9
Thompson has struggled through a left ankle injury of late. During the past week, he struggled to make much of an impact against New Jersey and a pair of contests against the Celtics.
INJ. Nikola Vucevic Sixers 13.4% offensive rebound rate, 22.0% defensive rebound rate, +11 offensive efficiency differential, 16.4% usage
10
The opportunity to jump both the stagnant Williams and Thompson has been there, but unfortunately, Vucevic has been sidelined with injury for almost two weeks. His return date is unknown, though he did practice earlier this week.
10. Kemba Walker
Bobcats
-11.5 offensive efficiency, 25% usage, 23% assist percentage, 15% defensive rebound rate
--
Walker hardly deserves to be included based on how he's played overall (the above stats, especially the negative 11.5 offensive differential included), but he had one too many nifty performances this week to ignore. He's still wildly inefficient, but he plays for an awful, awful, awful team, and that can't be discounted. An off week for multiple rookies (including very limited minutes for Utah's Alec Burks), injuries, and a triple double vault Kemba into the top ten for now.

Dropping out: Alec Burks

On the fringes: Brandon Knight, Iman Shumpert, Isaiah Thomas, Shelvin Mack

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