Exit Interviews: Chandler Parsons

Chandler Parsons reflects on his 2014-15 season with the Mavs.

For many years, part of the Mavs’ pitch to free agents was the chance for them to play with Dirk Nowitzki. And why not? At the peak of his career, Nowitzki was an MVP-caliber player every season, a perennial All-NBA guy and All-Star. Accolades aside, he’s also just a good dude in general.

The possibility of playing with Dirk is still a positive to players in the league today, make no mistake. He’s still a well-liked player, and he still landed a spot on the All-Star team in 2015 despite playing in his 17th season. Now, however, it appears there’s a new attraction in town: Chandler Parsons.

While Nowitzki remains the face of the franchise, Parsons is arguably the team’s most important player moving forward. At just 27 years old, he’s approaching his physical peak. This upcoming season will be his sixth in the league, so there’s still plenty room for him to grow both on and off the floor.

Free agents typically look for situations that are not only appealing right now, but also two or three years down the road. Parsons, who the Mavs signed as a free agent last summer, is already a very good player but has the chance to be an All-Star-caliber guy as more offensive responsibility is shifted his way. Last season he averaged 15.7 points on 12.6 shots per game, and the 17.1 points he averaged per 36 minutes was a career-high.

“I’m going into my prime. I think I’m ready,” he told reporters at his exit interview earlier this summer. “I feel like this year was more of a year to get comfortable and get my feet wet. I had some big games. Next year I hope for a much bigger role. I want the ball in my hands. I want good players around me. I think we have a chance to make some noise next year.”

Putting the ball in his hands is certainly one way to help Parsons grow his game. The forward ranked fifth in the NBA last season in points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler among players with at least 100 chances, according to Synergy Sports. Parsons ranked behind only Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, Chris Paul, MVP Stephen Curry, and his runner-up James Harden. Parsons’ 48.9 percent mark from the field in those opportunities ranked second among those five players, behind only Paul, and he turned it over less often than both Curry and Harden.

Inside Stuff: Chandler Parsons

Chandler Parsons of the Dallas Mavericks sits down with Kristen Ledlow to talk some hoops and has some fun describing his teammates.

His ability to create offense with the ball in his hands, especially working in combination with a rolling big man and surrounded by shooters like Dirk, for example, could be a huge part of the Mavs’ offense moving forward.

“He’s great on the move. He’s great in pick-and-rolls. He’s a great passer for his size,” Nowitzki said at his exit interview. OK, so how can he improve? “Just doing more of that and being more efficient doing so.”

Simple enough. Not much bigger a vote of confidence you could ask for than that, huh?

The Mavericks’ plans for Parsons, Dirk, and the offense is unquestionably going to be a focus in their meetings with free agents this summer. In general, the league is moving more and more toward the pick-and-roll as the focal point of the offense, and considering that’s Parsons’ biggest strength, it would make sense that Dallas would be a sensible landing spot for players who excel in that system.

Perimeter-oriented players, especially those who typically don’t play much with the ball in their hands, will want to know that Parsons can find them spotting up on the outside if they’re open. No problem there, as the Mavs forward rarely turns it over and, although his assist average last season dropped from 4.0 in ’13-’14 to 2.4, it wasn’t for a lack of trying: Mavs shooters hit just 19-of-61 spot-up shots out of the pick-and-roll on passes from Parsons, per Synergy. Dallas wants to add more shooting, and that’s a huge reason why.

Big men, meanwhile, will want to know that they can get lob passes or other looks off of Parsons drives. Mavs bigs in general last season excelled in the P&R, averaging a league-high 1.17 points per possession, per NBA.com. And off Parsons passes, bigs shot 16-of-22 from the field and went to the free throw line an additional seven times. The opportunities were there, but as the Mavericks were playing through so many other guys last season, the totals don’t necessarily seem gaudy. Still, Parsons’ overall ability and performance in the system indicate he can maintain a similar level of production even as his responsibilities increase, especially when surrounded with the right talent.

That, too, is where Parsons is becoming “the guy” in Dallas. He’s acting as the club’s lead recruiter this offseason, and he’s made it no secret that it was his plan to do so all along.

“I’m officially shifting into GM mode,” he said at his exit interview. “I have great relationships with a lot of guys that are out there. I have a great relationship with a lot of guys that are currently on our team. So as a guy that will be here for a while, and as one of the key guys going forward, I will definitely be talking to management.”

Nowitzki has taken notice of Parsons’ eagerness to be the friendly face of the summer, as well, summing up his thoughts on Parsons’ GM ability with a level of self-deprecation that makes him such a unique star.

“He’s great at that,” the big man said. “He’s great at small-talking and all the stuff I’m not great at.”

The onus will be on Parsons not only to talk the talk this summer to interested free agents, but also to walk the walk come this fall. If all goes well for the Mavericks this July, Parsons and Nowitzki will have several new, talented teammates to play with once the games begin, and at that point it will be up to those two to make the transition period for the new guys as easy as possible.

And, if Parsons is going to earn the extra responsibility he so wants, he’ll have to be ready to play at a high level every night. He’s not short on confidence, though, and that figures to help him out as he works to persuade some of the most talented players in the league to come to Dallas.

“I want to bring the best guys here,” he said. “I want to give us the best chance to win a championship, so I’ll do whatever it takes to do that.”

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