Chandler Parsons’ mid-season surge an indication of the player he could become

Chandler Parsons Season Highlights

Chandler Parsons' combination of skill and swagger served him well during his outstanding mid-season tear.

For 24 games, Chandler Parsons was an All-Star.

From Jan. 20 to March 14, there weren’t many players in the NBA more efficient than the 27-year-old Parsons. During that stretch he averaged 19.8 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting from the field and 47.8 percent from deep, joining names like Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard as two of the only players in the NBA with those percentages from the field. He added 6.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.0 steals in 34.9 minutes per game.

There was little doubt that Parsons had finally arrived, after spending the first half of the season playing himself back into top form after undergoing hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee to repair an injury he suffered late last season and re-aggravated in the 2015 playoffs against the Houston Rockets. Early in the 2015-16 campaign Parsons promised by January his “real season” would start, and he wasn’t lying.

His challenge now is to extend that 24-game stretch to 82.

Dallas took positive steps toward working to maximize Parsons’ impact within the flow of the offense, particularly as the season wore on and he spent more time playing the power forward position. In the 137 minutes Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki played the 4 and 5 spots, respectively, Dallas scored 1.341 points per possession with a 62.1 effective field goal percentage, per nbawowy.com. Parsons himself scored 1.45 points per possession in those situations with a blistering 75.0 effective field goal percentage. He scored 74 points on 40 field goal attempts.

That might not be a 4/5 combination we see too often next season, should Dallas manage to sign Parsons, who has the opportunity to become a free agent this summer. The 27-year-old said all season long that he doesn’t mind playing that position, but the worry with that particular pairing is the Mavericks might not have the defensive rebounding chops to keep up with the likes of more powerful teams on the interior such as Oklahoma City or Sacramento.

Still, at the power forward spot, Parsons is a player through whom the Mavs can run offense on a pretty regular basis, as he creates very serious problems for opponents.

“It’s obviously a mismatch when they’ve got a bigger, slower guy guarding me,” he said earlier this season. “I’m versatile and can catch-and-go and shoot the ball. Obviously, the better I shoot the ball, the harder they’re gonna close out on me and the more they’re gonna bite on the pump fakes. It just gives our team a different look, a more versatile look where we can get up and down.”

For one thing, he has the foot speed to beat bigger defenders off of curls and cuts.

And he has the downhill driving ability to move easily past centers if the opponent is forced to cross-match in transition. Even better, by pulling the center 25 feet away from the rim to guard Parsons, there’s no big man protecting the paint for when the Mavs forward gets past his man.

In an effort to exploit those matchup problems on a more regular basis, head coach Rick Carlisle made Parsons more of a featured player within the offense. There is concrete evidence to suggest the Mavs were better this season as he was more involved.

For starters, Dallas was 15-12 this season when Parsons received at least 55 touches, according to SportVU data. In those games, the Mavs had an average offensive rating of 107.3, which would have ranked fifth in the NBA this season. Additionally, more than 33 percent of the Mavs’ jump shots were uncontested in those games, according to team analytics data, and the Mavs scored 1.17 points per possession when the ball entered the paint either via drive or pass.

By contrast, when he received 54 or fewer touches, Dallas had a 14-20 record and averaged a 102.3 offensive rating in those games, which would have ranked 23rd in the NBA. In those contests, just 22.2 percent of the Mavs’ jumpers were considered “open,” and Dallas scored 1.14 points per possession when the ball entered the paint.

Total number of touches doesn’t completely illustrate how involved a player is — there are other factors at hand, such as the number of minutes he played and who else on the team was healthy or injured, etc. — but it’s noteworthy that there was such a dramatic difference at the 55-touch threshold. None of the other Mavs’ starters had splits nearly as significant at any number cut-off, including Nowitzki.

2016 Exit Interview: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons addresses the media following the conclusion of the team's 2015-16 season.

Known for his recruiting prowess, Parsons has the choice to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent. The Mavs, then, would be forced to recruit the recruiter. There is already mutual interest between the two sides, as there should be: Parsons is earning an expanded role in the offense, and the Mavs benefited greatly from his multi-month, mid-season rampage.

Until then, however, Parsons said he’ll focus on rehabbing his right knee, after undergoing another surgery to address a torn meniscus. The procedure ended his season, but Parsons has already done some stand-still shooting and he’ll be able to resume full basketball activities within the next month or so. That’s a big difference from how he spent last summer, when rehab severely limited his ability to do any on-court work.

While undergoing back-to-back season-ending surgeries has been difficult for Parsons to deal with physically and emotionally, the forward said he isn’t worried about any potential long-term impact the two injuries could have. Rather, he’s already thinking ahead to getting back to work.

“I have the best doctors and best trainers int he world working on me every single day, and they think obviously I can get through a full season and continue to still play basketball, and I’m still not in my physical prime,” Parsons said during his exit interview. “It’s not very worrisome for me. It’s obviously frustrating and difficult and I wish it never happened, but it’s something that was out of my control, kind of freak accidents that occur to athletes when you’re competing at the highest level. Obviously I’m hoping for the best, and no one’s gonna work harder than me to get back to where I was and even better.”