Through Chandler Parsons’ first 34 appearances this season, he averaged 9.6 points on 45.7 percent shooting from the field and 32.7 percent from deep. In the 19 games since, he’s scoring 20.1 points on 53.3 percent shooting and 51.4 percent on 3s.
That’s one heck of a turnaround.
It’s undeniable that Parsons has been the Mavs’ most dynamic player during that period, leading the team in scoring, shooting better than every non-center on the team, and leading the team in 3-point shooting by nearly 13 percentage points. He’s been a force in the pick-and-roll, in transition, and as a spot-up shooter.
It used to be that Parsons was considered a jack of all trades, master of none, but in the last month-plus he’s played like a master of just about everything. His are All-Star-caliber numbers, even in a Western Conference loaded at the forward position. And as his health concerns are quickly becoming a thing of the past and his numbers are soaring, Parsons is growing into the go-to, featured role he and the Mavs envisioned when they agreed to terms in the summer of 2014.
Since Jan. 1, Parsons’ usage rate — the percentage of a team’s possessions a player “uses” on the floor by attempting a field goal, shooting a free throw, or turning the ball over — is 21.9 percent, up from 20.9 percent earlier in the season and 20.5 percent in 2014-15. In a completely balanced system, every player would have a 20 percent usage rate, so anything higher than that is considered an above-average workload.
To put into perspective just how effective Parsons has been in 2016, he’s joined by Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard as the only players in the NBA with a usage rate of 21.5 percent or higher since Jan. 1 while also hitting at least 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from beyond the arc. That isn’t just good company. That’s elite company.
Usage is only one way to measure a player’s involvement, however. SportVU tracks player touches in every single game, and since Jan. 1, Parsons has been averaging 43.6 frontcourt touches per game, up from 33.5 per contest from his season debut through Dec. 31. In addition, his average of total touches — including from defensive rebounds to bringing the ball up the court, etc. — has climbed from 41.2 per game to 56.2, the third-highest mark on the team in that time behind only Deron Williams (87.9) and Dirk Nowitzki (57.2).
His greatest level of involvement has been most recent. He’s recorded 65 or more touches in three consecutive games for the first time this season, per SportVU, and at least 45 total touches in eight consecutive games. The Mavericks are 10-1 this season when he receives more than 60 touches.
A player’s impact on a game runs much deeper than how many points he scores. That’s something we’ve seen with Nowitzki’s influence on court spacing and dictating the defense, especially later in his career, now that he isn’t posting up as often as he once did. When Nowitzki is guarded by a smaller player, teams tend to double-team him and that opens up all sorts of offensive options for the Mavericks. In a similar vein, when Parsons has a matchup advantage, putting the ball in his hands creates several difficult decisions an opposing defense must make, and given Parsons’ quickness and explosiveness, the defense doesn’t have long to make those choices.
Whether or not a player like Parsons is shooting the ball, simply getting him involved in the offense can have an effect on the opposing defense. He’s tall and long, and he can play either forward spot, giving Dallas the freedom to put him in the most favorable matchup possible to maximize his impact. Neither small 3s nor slow-footed 4s stand much of a chance at keeping him out of the lane, where he’s in position to either finish himself — he’s shooting 66.9 percent in the restricted area this season — or dish it off to a shooter on the outside. Mavs shooters are hitting 38.3 percent on three-point attempts following a Parsons pass, according to NBA.com.
Parsons is playing nearly 100 percent of the backup power forward minutes now, and it’s during those stretches where the bulk of his touches come, as he assumes a point forward role. That alone makes him a valuable player, as he pulls the opposing 4 as far as 30 feet from the rim, opening up driving lanes for the Mavs’ smaller players — Dallas frequently plays two or even three point guard-sized players. It makes so much sense to keep him involved at a high level, and the Mavericks have been doing just that lately.
Parsons has likely yet to realize his ceiling as a player, although the numbers he’s put up in the last 19 games might suggest otherwise. As he’s become more involved in the offense, he’s producing more and the Mavericks as a whole are scoring more efficiently. There’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest it’s not one big coincidence. Make no mistake: The more involved Parsons is, the better and more versatile the Mavericks become.
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