It's no mystery why Neil Olshey is attempting to recruit Parsons to his team. The Blazers need a frontcourt scoring threat to relieve the offensive burden currently placed on their guards. When he's healthy, Parsons can be that guy.
Throughout the 2016 playoffs the Blazers were hampered by a lack of firepower in the frontcourt. Starting guards CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard were regularly hounded by double teams, forcing the Blazers to rely on the streaky shooting of Al-Farouq Aminu or mid-range passing of Mason Plumlee to generate points. With the addition of the 6-foot-10 Parsons, the Blazers would have a frontcourt player who can act as a legitimate offensive threat in his own right.
Parsons is a multi-faceted offensive threat who can play either forward position, but his effectiveness is grounded in elite shooting ability. Last season Parsons shot a torrid 41.4 percent on three-pointers on more than four attempts per game. Replacing Aminu's iffy outside shooting with that kind of reliability from beyond the arc would instantly open up the offense for the Blazers.
To fully understand how valuable Parsons' shooting could be for Portland, imagine this guy acting as a release valve for Lillard during the playoffs last season:
Parsons can handle the ball well, often driving to the rim after defenders over-commit to challenging his perimeter jumper. He finishes well around the rim; he converted 68 percent of his shots in the restricted area during the 2015-2016 season. In comparison, Damian Lillard converted only 52 percent of those attempts.
Parsons is also an above average passer for a forward. He does not usually act as a primary play-maker, but he is skilled enough to run the pick and roll as a secondary ball handler. He can also find the open man when he drives to the lane and draws the defense.
Currently the Blazers do not have the optimal lineup to fully utilize Parsons' skills. Ideally he would be paired with a DeAndre Jordan-style center who can receive lob passes and act as a third option when defenses collapse on Parsons. SBNation's Tim Cato writes:
Last summer, the Mavericks infamously pursued DeAndre Jordan in part because he would have been the perfect player to put next to Parsons. Zaza Pachulia has been a suitable replacement for Dallas, and bad defenses like Minnesota get burned by Parsons anyway. But an athletic rim runner is what the Mavericks (or another team looking to sign Parsons) really needs, someone who can pull defenses to him or catch any and all alley oops lobbed his way.
Despite the lack of a rim-running center, Parsons' diversity of skills would still mesh well with Portland's offense. Parsons could be the Swiss Army Knife that the Blazers lost last season when Nicolas Batum was traded to the Charlotte Hornets. He would be reliant on other players to draw the attention of the defense to fully capitalize on his skills, but with McCollum or Lillard always in the game, that should not be a problem. Ian Miller of Mavs Moneyball describes some of the reasons Parsons would fit in Portland:
Parsons' value lies not in prolific point totals, but in his ability to mesh with seemingly any lineup. If a team needs spot up shooters, CP can do that. If they need a secondary ball-handler to run pick and roll, CP can do that. If they need a guy who can get out and run, or a guy who will be patient and make smart cuts in a half-court offense, CP's your guy, and at the other end, if they need a guy who can guard multiple positions, CP can do that, as well.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, Parsons defense lags behind his offense. While playing for the Rockets early in his career, Parsons was often lauded for his defensive impact, but in recent seasons that impact has waned. He still has the size, length, and athleticism to be a factor on defense, but an increased role on offense coupled with injuries seem to have caused his defense to regress toward average at best.
The Mavericks defense last season was often sub-par, but Parsons stood out as especially problematic. His efforts hit a nadir against the Rockets in January when he scored 31 points but finished with a -31 +/- for the game. Some of his defensive deficiencies seem to be the result of a lack of effort rather than deteriorating skills; Blazers fans are especially familiar with Parsons' tendency toward lapses in judgement that allow his man to get free for an open shot:
On a positive note, if Parsons' defensive woes are mostly effort-based, there is hope that he could return to his Houston form within the Blazers' system.
Parsons also has a troubling injury history. He underwent an undisclosed procedure on his right knee last summer, since reported to be a "hybrid microfracture surgery." Parsons did return to the lineup in time for the third game of the year, but he played under a heavy minutes restriction for the first two months of the season.
Once the minutes restriction was lifted, Parsons thrived by averaging 16.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range. But Parsons re-injured his right knee toward the end of the season. He tore his meniscus and was forced to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Without Parsons, the Mavericks lost in five games to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Round 1.
It's unclear whether Parsons' right knee problems will become chronic, or if the two surgeries over the last season will end up a blip on the radar. The Blazers do have a state of the art training staff and have, for the most part, avoided the major injuries that plagued the franchise in years of yore, so it is possible that Parsons will avoid future complications. A third injury, however, could turn a max contract into a risky proposition.
A healthy Parsons would provide an instant upgrade at forward for the Blazers. He would be the reliable frontcourt scoring option that the team sorely needed last season. His shooting separates him offensively from Portland's other forwards.
Parsons played minutes at both power forward and small forward last season. We don't know the full composition of the Blazers 2016-2017 lineup yet, but the NBA is trending toward smallball lineups with an emphasis on interchangeability. Parsons ability to seamlessly swap positions, pairing with Portland's current hybrid forwards, matches larger league trends.
The Blazers defense may not be as effective with Parsons in the lineup, .
Despite being a 27 year old veteran with a proven track record, this acquisition is still all about potential. If Parsons' ailing right knee holds together. the Blazers would have a needle moving frontcourt starter with the versatility to play multiple positions while shooting the lights out and averaging 16/6/3. If not, the promise would turn sour in a hurry.