Don’t overlook Chandler Parsons’ prowess on defense

It’s a given that Mavs small forward Chandler Parsons will make the offense better.

That much was clear when Dallas inked the 25-year-old to a contract last month. But what’s also evident based on the team’s other signings this summer is the Mavericks intend to get better on the defensive end of the floor, as well. The acquisition of Tyson Chandler should shore up the interior defense, and probable reserves Greg Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu are also excellent defenders themselves.

The team has made a concerted effort to improve from 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency last year into the top half of the league, and Parsons could absolutely help. For all the attention his offensive game has received since Parsons signed with Dallas, he’s an accomplished defender as well.

Last season with Houston he allowed just .74 points per possession (well above league-average) when guarding pick-and-roll ball handlers, limiting shooters to 35.2 percent from the field and forcing turnovers more than 15 percent of the time, per Synergy Sports. And he faced plenty of those plays last season: Nearly 28 percent of his defensive plays last season came against pick-and-rolls. That comes a year after he allowed a similar .70 points per possession against the same play. The two Chandlers — Parsons and Tyson — will give Dallas a markedly improved defense against pick-and-rolls involving bigger players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and anyone else Parsons might guard. At 6′ 9″, Parsons has the length to guard power forwards and the quickness to defend guards. That versatility will afford Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle the freedom to sic Parsons on whichever player he chooses. In addition, his ability to force turnovers will play right into Carlisle’s defensive strategy — Dallas thrived on playing dicey D last season, playing with active hands against ball-handlers and in the passing lane.

He’s also a very disciplined defender in one-on-one situations, committing shooting fouls less than five percent of the time in isolation. That will matter against players like James, Durant, and even Houston’s James Harden, all players whom are wont to make a living at the free throw line against foul-prone defenders. And considering Dallas will play Houston four times this season and the Thunder at least three times, that discipline will be paramount to the Mavs’ success in those contests.

Carlisle will also be quick to admit the Mavericks committed too many fouls against three-point shooters last season. Parsons, however, demonstrated not only the ability to close out against spot-up shooters, but he also did so without fouling. Opponents shot worse than 29 percent on spot-up threes against him in 2013-14, and against 216 total spot-up field goals, he committed a shooting foul just 3.3 percent of the time. He has the athleticism to contest jump shots but the technique to do so without making contact with the shooter.

Offensive numbers are definitely much more exciting to look at than defensive stats. That’s obvious. But Dallas is clearly looking to improve its defense, and for good reason: With the same offense an improved defense by just a couple points per 100 possessions, the Mavericks can elevate themselves to juggernaut status. Parsons is going to do plenty of exciting things on offense, but he’s also going to play right into the team’s defensive plan, too.