Postgame: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons dishes on his big night against the Sixers.

It’s been a challenging start to the season for Chandler Parsons, playing under a tight minutes restriction and often only for a few minutes at a time. He hasn’t played in the second nights of back-to-backs and has sat on the sideline in crunch time of every close game this season.

Playing exclusively in the first half and on a wonky time limit has got to make finding a rhythm difficult for the small forward. After his first season with the Mavs, Parsons made quite obvious his desire for a larger role in the offense. But handing him the added responsibility has been difficult, as the vicious circular effect of not getting into a groove because of his restrictions has generally kept his touches down.

But not on Monday night.

Parsons exploded against the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring a season-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. For what seemed like the first time all season, Parsons wasn’t just in the flow — he was the flow. The Dallas offense hummed with the 6-foot-10 forward at the helm, and for a majority of the night he was the only player who could reliably create offense for himself.

More importantly, he looked smooth doing it. We’re familiar with seeing Dirk Nowitzki’s herky-jerky style on the ball, but Parsons is a much more fluid player with the ball in his hands. Earlier this season, however, he appeared to be moving carefully and deliberately without the burst that made him such a dangerous player in 2014-15. Against Philadelphia, though, he looked comfortable and as if everything was coming just a bit easier for him.

“I thought this was by far his best game,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He played the game, he wasn’t trying to do too much, shots came to him within the flow, he was moving the ball beautifully… That’s what he’s got to continue to do.”

Heading into the Sixers game, Parsons had been 6-of-13 inside the restricted area this season, according to NBA.com. But he shot 4-of-4 near the rim against Philly, mostly on run-outs and fast breaks, where many of his previous misses had come. Scoring on the fast break in a one-on-one situation is not necessarily an easy thing to do, but it becomes a much more difficult proposition if you’re not getting an explosive lift when it comes time to take a shot.

Here was Parsons’ first layup attempt on a fast break this season:

Fast1

And here was his first Monday night against Philadelphia:

Fast2

The only difference between those two plays — other than the presence of a trailing defender in the first one — is that Parsons was able to explode just a bit more in the second example and was able to not only create contact, but also finish. As his knee continues to heal and as he regains his rhythm and form, his accuracy around the rim will climb higher. It’s already doing so, as it is.

Where he’s really stood out in his last two appearances is in the mid-range. He’s shown off a pull-up jump shot that he began utilizing more frequently toward the end of last season. He flashed it against the Lakers on Friday, first.

MidRange Pull

But it was against Philadelphia that he really flaunted it.

MidRange Pull2

MidRange Pull3

MidRange Pull4

That area — from between the paint and the three-point line — is generally considered an inefficient area to generate offense. But if you look around the league, nearly every star-caliber player has a strong mid-range pull-up jump shot. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, and even James Harden, who plays in the extremely modernized Rockets offense, all take several of those shots per game. As defenders anticipate a drive to the basket, they’re likely to back up off of the attacking player, which creates a pocket of space for an off-the-bounce jumper. Having a reliable mid-range J is the key to unlocking every other element of your game. Parsons could take a look at his buddy Dirk Nowitzki for evidence.

As Parsons continues to grow into the player he will become, that shot will be a huge asset to him, and Philadelphia showed why. If you crowd Parsons too much coming off a screen, he has the court vision and passing ability to make a pass in close quarters to the roll man, who in this case was Zaza Pachulia.

PR Pass

That’s a difficult position for the defense. If the big man backs off, Parsons has a jump shot. If the big man steps out haphazardly, Parsons can drive right around him. And even if he plays strong defense, eliminating the threat of a drive, the Mavs forward can still find a way to create offense. That’s what makes having that pull-up shot so important: It gives the opponent no way to win the possession.

If there’s an element of the Mavs offense that’s been missed as Parsons continues to work through the recovery process, it’s been that. He gives Dallas such a versatile offensive game on the perimeter because, at 6-foot-10, he causes all sorts of matchup problems for the opponent. Small forwards aren’t used to defending guys who can handle the ball and pass the way Parsons can, and most centers in this league are too slow-footed to keep up with him. As he regains his athleticism and explosiveness, Parsons becomes even more dangerous in both half-court and full-court settings, which gives the Dallas starting lineup a nice, dynamic boost.

“This is great, that Parsons had this kind of game, because he hasn’t been having this kind of game,” Carlisle said. “He’s been having struggles, and our starting group has not been playing well together. They played well together tonight, so that’s a real step in the right direction.”

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