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Chandler Parsons' Improvement as Mid-Range Scorer Key for Houston Rockets' Success

Rockets' Future Hinges on Parsons' Continued Development

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Chandler Parsons has been an absolute blessing for the Houston Rockets.

The former second-round pick slid into the Rockets' starting lineup early in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, jumping both Chase Budinger and Marcus Morris on the depth chart. In Parsons' second start in the league, he scored 20 points and grabbed seven boards against the Bobcats, and he hasn't looked back since.

Last year, Parsons finished the season with great numbers: 15.5 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game. He shot nearly 49 percent from the floor, while posting a respectable 38.5 percent from 3-point land. His scoring numbers, rebounding numbers and percentages were all up from his rookie season, which proves that his efficiency was not compromised with an increase in opportunities; his game just got better.

Before I point out the one glaring hole in Parsons' game, here are a list of his strengths:

1. Wing Defense

On a nightly basis, Parsons drew the assignment of the best offensive wing player on the opposing team. Without jeopardizing his offensive output, Parsons was able to play top-flight defense against the league's best wing players like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, making him one of the better two-way players in the league. The closest comparison to Parsons is San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard, who displayed his abilities to a national audience in the 2013 NBA Finals. Hopefully, Parsons will do the same in 2014.

2. Outside Shooting

While shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point land last year, Parsons also showed that he's willing to take the big shot down the stretch. Much like Tracy McGrady's 3-point shot, Parsons' appears pretty flat, but both guys just have (or in T-Mac's case had) a knack for putting the ball in the bucket. With a long and lean frame, Parsons has a quick trigger and high release point that allows him to get off shots over the league's lankiest defenders.

3. Overall Court Sense

For such a young guy, Parsons has tremendous knowledge of the game. He played four seasons at Florida, at times in a tailor-made point-forward role, so he can handle the ball and facilitate an offense. He's a great cutter, which will be even more crucial this season with Dwight Howard drawing so much attention on the block. Defensively, Parsons was rarely out of position as a help defender, and he got better at positioning himself for potential charges as the season went on.

4. Leadership

The Rockets were a tight-knit group last year, and Parsons was a big part of that. Before free throws were taken, the young forward would huddle up his teammates to ensure that everyone was on the same page, something more often seen in the college game than in the NBA. Winning is and always will be the main objective for Parsons (making him the complete opposite of Ricky Davis), who kept the team afloat during stretches where Lin disappeared (there were a lot of those) and the big men weren't scoring (there were even more of these).

Houston's potential as a contender hinges greatly on continued improvement by Parsons. While he's already one of the better small forwards in the league, his game is lacking in one major area: mid-range shooting.

Parsons averaged 12.4 shots per game, and 5.2 of those shots were from distance. Many times, if Parsons was unable to shoot the 3 due to a quick closeout, he would either sidestep the defender and still look to launch a 3, or he would try to take the ball all the way to the rack. Unfortunately, in the NBA, getting all the way to the rim is a tough thing to do, especially if you don't have the ability to hang in the air like some of the league's elite athletes do.

If Parsons wants to evolve as a scorer, he's going to need to develop some sort of mid-range game. Whether he decides to develop a more traditional pull-up jumper or a one-footed runner is up to him. Parsons attempted to incorporate both last season, but he didn't show a lot of comfort with either shot. If he can consistently shoot the ball from 18-20 feet after getting his defender in the air, his scoring numbers could go as high as 20 points a night.

Don't get me wrong, if Parsons never develops a mid-range game, he'll still be a stud. The guy does a little bit of everything on the court, and he's a heck of a teammate. However, Rockets fans are striding for a title in Houston; they want the most out of all the guys, and they want youngsters to develop into well-rounded players. Parsons plays his heart out each night, and leaves it all out on the court. It's obvious that he takes his career seriously, and that his main objective is winning basketball games.

Over the course of two seasons, we've seen Parsons evolve into one of the best young talents in the league. Given his dedication to the game and his on-court intelligence, I bet he's watching game tape of Hal Greer shooting 15-foot jumpers already.

M. De Moor is an NBA junkie and a graduate of Montclair State University. He has followed the Rockets from the championship days of Hakeem Olajuwon, to the years of Francis and Mobley, to the McGrady and Yao era, and will continue to follow them through Harden and Dwight's reign of destruction.

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