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.”

The best Mavs social media moments of the season

Dirk Nowitzki has a well-deserved reputation as one of the funniest players in the NBA, but as it turns out he’s had some pretty stiff competition this year in his own locker room. Following the Mavs players this season on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat has been a trip.

Whether Dirk and Zaza Pachulia are going at it, Justin Anderson is retweeting pictures of lions, or JaVale McGee is posting selfies with the latest Snapchat filters, the Mavs haven’t let their off-the-floor talents go to waste. Although the playoffs are right around the corner, we still have some time to look back on the funny moments before things truly start to heat up. Let’s take a look at some of the best posts and exchanges they’ve had this season.

Let’s start with today…

The Mavs won seven of their final nine games of the season, which means Dirk is already in postseason form. And when the playoffs come around, he takes no prisoners… not even yours truly.

2016-04-14 10_39_27-Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) _ Twitter

Of course, that wasn’t his only zinger of the season, and he doesn’t just pick on lowly scribes, either. When the Dallas Cowboys jokingly submitted a #MavsNewCourt design prominently featuring the famous star logo, Nowitzki didn’t pull any punches when voicing his disapproval.

2016-04-14 10_41_39-Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) _ Twitter

And there was the time when he hit front rim on a dunk — and although it happened after a whistle and therefore didn’t count, that didn’t keep the world from chirping about it. Dirk’s response:

2016-04-14 10_44_18-Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) _ Twitter

Or when C.J. McCollum crossed him up, spun him around, and hit a jumper. (The Mavs won in overtime, though!)

Not even Pau Gasol, a fellow European legend, can avoid a little Nowitzki shade.

Then, of course, there’s this, perhaps the best tweet by any player of the entire season.

Backyard Tennis

Chandler Parsons and Nowitzki are good buddies. Parsons says Nowitzki was one of his favorite athletes growing up, and he proudly wore No. 41 jerseys when playing ball on Florida playgrounds. Now that they’re teammates, Parsons can hang out with his idol. Sometimes that means playing tennis…

#tbt tennis with @swish41 #itwasin #hebeatmebarefoot

A video posted by ChandlerParsons (@chandlerparsons) on

…while others it might mean lifting weights together…

#tbt struggling with the 30s!

A photo posted by ChandlerParsons (@chandlerparsons) on

…while others yet it might mean exploring Southern culture.

@swish41 is ready to hoop!!

A photo posted by ChandlerParsons (@chandlerparsons) on

You’re never too old to be a cowboy.

Parsons and his buddy, Coach Carlisle

These two might have a weird, quirky relationship at times, but that doesn’t stop them from posing for pictures together in front of a Rolls Royce…

Congrats Coach Carlisle on the new deal! #5moreyears #iseeyourwalletisalreadyout

A photo posted by ChandlerParsons (@chandlerparsons) on

…or from hanging out at the most infamous Halloween party in Dallas history.

Happy Halloween!!

A photo posted by ChandlerParsons (@chandlerparsons) on

JaVale McGee, Snapchat superstar

While Nowitzki steals the show on Twitter and Parsons holds the Instagram belt, there’s no question JaVale McGee has the greatest Snapchat of any Maverick, potentially in team history. He’s been a panda rapping along to “Panda” (very meta)…

…he’s relaxed with Buzz Lightyear…

…and he’s worn tropical headgear.

Following along to the adventures of McGee and Raja “The Sphynx” is always a trip, too.

And finally there was the time that he was Charlie Villanueva and Villanueva was he.

Little Mavericks

Villanueva and J.J. Barea both welcomed daughters into the world this season.

Mi vida mi todo Paulina Barea Ortiz 03/31/16 😀😇😜👨‍👩‍👧‍👦🇵🇷

A photo posted by jose barea (@jjbarea11) on

Priceless…….Game Day vs OKC…….#dallasmavs #aliyah #mffl #mavsnation #believeincharlie #proudfather

A photo posted by Charlie Villanueva (@cvbelieve) on

Congratulations to them both!

Dirk and Zaza: An unparalleled rivalry

Dirk and Pachulia don’t back down on the floor, so you’d better believe they’re not going to be shy away from the game. These two go at each other online harder than most guys do their opponents in the postseason.

Dirk doesn’t believe Pachulia can snag a Leonel Messi jersey.

https://twitter.com/zaza27/status/700465922352553988

(Click to see the whole exchange on that one…)

There’s the Great Shoulder Debate of 2015-16.

https://twitter.com/zaza27/status/684965616189595648

And then there’s Zaza taking credit for Dirk’s rise up the all-time scoring list.

Finally, here’s our entry for tweet of the year…

What a season it’s been for the Mavs, both on the floor and off of it. There certainly is something charming about these guys being so funny away from the game, especially in how they interact with one another. The players really enjoy each other’s company, and that’s a pretty important thing given the amount of time they spend together. The group has talked up the importance of chemistry and togetherness all season long, and down the stretch of the playoff race we learned just why that’s so important.

Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons undergoes right knee surgery

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that forward Chandler Parsons underwent arthroscopic surgery to address an injury to his right medial meniscus. The surgery was performed by team physician Dr. Daniel Worrel at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas. Parsons will miss the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

Parsons (6-10, 230) finished the year with averages of 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 29.5 minutes in 61 games (51 starts). He shot 49.2 percent (320-of-651) from the field and 41.4 percent (104-of-251) from 3-point range.

Over his final 30 games of the season (since Jan. 12), Parsons averaged 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 34.3 minutes. He shot 52 percent (204-of-392) from the floor and 47.5 percent (75-of-158) from deep in his last 30 games.

Lineup change pays off in Mavs win at Charlotte

It was bound to happen eventually, and last night it did.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle changed up the starting lineup, replacing Zaza Pachulia with Raymond Felton. Dirk Nowitzki started at center with Chandler Parsons at power forward as the Mavs tested a small-ball group against the hottest team in the NBA. Before last night, the Hornets had won a league-high seven straight games, while the Mavs had lost a league-high five consecutive contests and had slid down to eighth place in the standings.

After Saturday’s loss to Indiana, Carlisle pledged to make changes if necessary to give his team the best chance to win. The early returns following that change have certainly been positive, as a first-half blitz saw the Mavs lead balloon to as much as 19 in an 11-point win. However, Charlotte plays a much smaller starting group than most other teams in the league, so there’s no guarantee the lineup change will carry over to future contests. Still, the Mavericks have been rolling out enough small-ball groups lately that this is now officially a trend, so it’s worth looking at what’s made those units so effective and how it can translate to success down the stretch as Dallas continues on in the crowded playoff race.

The smaller the lineup, the more the ball moves

When Dallas can spread the floor with three players who can attack off the dribble, defenses are forced to rotate to absolute perfection. But by moving Chandler Parsons to the power forward spot, the Mavericks can play four guys who can penetrate and, next to the best-shooting big man in NBA history, that creates a terrible dilemma for defenses. Five-out basketball causes all sorts of problems for opponents because from a defensive perspective it can turn each play into five individual games of 1-on-1. When teams run traditional halfcourt sets with two big men, a defense can survive if one guy makes a mistake or has a disadvantageous matchup. But in 5-out ball, the offense can exploit every single matchup, which means you’d better stick to your man and keep him out of the paint, because you’re not going to get much help if you’re beat. All of your teammates are defending guys 25 feet from the rim, so who would normally be the traditional help man could be as far as 30-40 feet away from you. Each individual defender is on an island.

Of course, the offense wants the defense to help in those situations because it creates open jumpers on the outside. Here’s the Mavs’ first offensive play in last night’s game. Notice how this is set up: There are five offensive players all between 20-25 feet from the rim as Raymond Felton plays one-on-one up top.

2016-03-15 13_59_56-NBA.com_Stats - Dallas vs Charlotte - MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016

Felton makes a quick crossover move on Kemba Walker and attacks the paint. Marvin Williams’ instincts take over, knowing that if he doesn’t slide down to help on the driving Felton, the Mavs guard will more than likely have a layup. But watch what happens when he helps.

2016-03-15 14_00_13-NBA.com_Stats - Dallas vs Charlotte - MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016

Parsons is wide, wide open. It’s an easy three-pointer. Here’s the full play.

But driving the lane doesn’t always lead immediately to a shot, and that’s OK. The Mavs often attack and then pull the ball out and either reset the offense or swing to a player who becomes open as the defense falls off-balance. The Mavericks drove the lane 42 times in last night’s game, according to team analytics, and the club scored 50 points during possessions with a paint drive.

That high a volume of attacking creates an equally high volume of passing, and no team has done more of that since the All-Star break. In that time, the Mavericks lead the NBA with 352.9 passes per game, and in last night’s contest they made 366 passes. Seven players made at least 30 passes, an astonishing number. So not only is the team spreading the floor with quick guys, but they’re quick guys who can read the defense and make the right pass to lead to the most desirable shot. It’s a fun brand of basketball to play and watch, but it’s not fun at all to defend.

A quick note on the defense: Dallas switched on almost every screen last night, a luxury small-ball lineups tend to use religiously as it streamlines defensive coverage and mitigates any potential confusion in the pick-and-roll game. Also, Wesley Matthews was absolutely terrific against Kemba Walker in the fourth quarter, slowing the guard down after he went on a tear in the fourth quarter. Defense is part of the game, too, and the Mavs performed very well in that area last night.

Parsons and Dirk

Small-ball means Parsons plays the 4 and Dirk Nowitzki plays the 5. That’s a good thing for the Mavericks.

Since the All-Star break, Dallas has scored 1.411 points per possession in 77 minutes with that frontcourt duo in small-ball lineups, according to nbawowy.com. The Mavs have a 67.4 effective field goal percentage in those situations, an absurd rate. By comparison, the 59-win Warriors lead the NBA this season with a 56.2 eFG percentage.

On an individual level, Parsons has shined next to Dirk, with an 89.5 eFG, 88.6 true shooting percentage, and 68.4 field goal percentage in situations when he’s at the 4 and Dirk as at the 5.

Taking each player’s skill sets into consideration, though, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that they perform so well in those roles. Parsons has been playing more and more 4 lately, and it’s not crazy to think that, someday, he could make the transition to that position on a full-time basis. Meanwhile, Nowitzki has the same edge over centers today that he did against power forwards in the early-’00s in terms of quickness and exploiting opposing bigs’ discomfort defending on the outside. Centers naturally gravitate toward the rim so most aren’t going to think to stick tight to Nowitzki when he’s 25 feet from the basket, a mistake Nikola Jokic made last week that resulted in three Mavs points.

Parsons, meanwhile, has elevated his game to unprecedented heights in 2016. He’s averaging better than 20 points per game in the last two months and he’s rivaled by only Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard in terms of efficiency among high-usage players. He’s also climbed into the top-10 league-wide in points per possession among players with at least 750 possessions this season, according to Synergy Sports.

He ranks second in spot-up points per possession among players with at least 150 such possessions and he’s climbed up into the top 20 percent in PPP as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, in transition, and coming off cuts. His game is becoming more and more well-rounded as he’s even creating for himself at a high level this season, scoring 0.95 points per possession in isolation, ranking ahead of players like James Harden and DeMar DeRozan.

Power forward is arguably the most important position in the modern NBA, as your personnel at that spot will dictate the type of team you will be. If you have a stretch-4 shooter like Dirk, you can run a 4-out pick-and-roll and create driving and passing lanes for your point guard. However, if you have a dynamic scorer and facilitator like Parsons, who at 6-foot-10 (with a ratchet) can attack the paint, finish, pass, and shoot off both the catch and bounce, you can play 5-out and run your opponent ragged.

There aren’t many (or perhaps any) traditional power forwards in this league who can defend Parsons for 20-30 minutes a night, and there aren’t many centers who can do the same with Dirk. For the record, last night they combined for 47 points on 17-of-32 shooting and 20 rebounds. That combination is just lethal, and we’ve already seen the type of damage it can do, albeit on a fairly limited sample size compared to the Mavs’ rotation before the All-Star break.

The back end of the rotation

With Felton moving into the starting lineup, reserve minutes sprang open on the wing. Deron Williams battled foul trouble in the first half (before going supernova in the fourth quarter) which opened the door for rookie Justin Anderson to see some action. He scored only one point in eight minutes, but he made a play I can’t ever remember seeing before.

Charlotte’s Nic Batum drove the lane on a fast break and rose for the layup, but Anderson flew in literally out of nowhere and rejected the shot with his left (strong) hand, then grabbed the rebound with his off-hand in mid-air and launched a fast break the other way.

The Mavs have brought in plenty of super-athletic wings in the last decade-plus, from Gerald Green to Rodrigue Beaubois to Al-Farouq Aminu and more. But I’m not sure there are many people on the planet who can make the play Anderson made. Look at it this way: Not only did he block the layup, but he also got the rebound, preventing a Cody Zeller put-back dunk. Then, he made the outlet pass, ran the floor, collected a pass, drove the lane, and drew a foul going for a layup.

It was no secret coming out of the Combine that Anderson was one of, if not, the most athletic players in the NBA Draft. His combination of wingspan, verticality, and explosiveness gave him the physical makeup that every scout craves. As the season has worn on, he’s become more comfortable within the flow of the offense and playing defense at the professional level, adjustments which trouble pretty much every rookie. But no amount of coaching can teach a player to make the play Anderson did, which is what made him such a tantalizing prospect to begin with.

It’s unclear whether he’ll see more playing time as the race heats up and the season winds down, but that was a huge momentum play, and I’m sure it gave the rook a significant confidence boost. If nothing else, it’s a highlight play we’ll watch in awe for quite some time.

The move to small-ball was a resounding success last night, as it’s been for much of the season. And, looking at the schedule, the Mavs play their next five games against teams which don’t play traditional centers (Cleveland, then Golden State and Portland twice). This lineup could stick for a while, or perhaps it was a one-time thing to match up against a specific opponent in one specific contest. Either way, the Mavs have certainly found something with that philosophy, and their success in small-ball stretches could ultimately determine how far they go the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

As Chandler Parsons’ hot streak continues, his usage has grown

Parsons Goes Off For 29

Chandler Parsons grabs 29 points as the Mavericks destroy the Timberwolves 102-128.

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.

Chandler Parsons 2.0

A principios de diciembre de 2015, los Dallas Mavericks cayeron derrotados en el AAC ante los Atlanta Hawks por tres puntos. Cómo es lógico, el humor en el vestuario no sería demasiado bueno. Especial en la taquilla con el número 25. Chandler Parsons solo metió 5 puntos aquella noche, lanzando 9 veces a canasta, y jugando apenas 20 minutos. En su 16º partido de la temporada apenas se veían aún sus progresos. Aún tenía un límite de minutos por noche. Era difícil ver la luz al final del túnel.

Pero una cosa es no ver la salida, y otra muy diferente es que esa salida no exista. Parsons sabía que, aunque en aquel momento quizás no la veía, la salida del túnel estaba allí. “Mi verdadera temporada empieza en enero,” se atrevió a adelantar en aquellas fechas. Y no se confundió.

Entre el 1 de enero y el 29 de febrero, en 27 partidos, Chandler Parsons ha promediado 17.1 puntos (51.5 por ciento en tiros de campo y 45.4 por ciento en tripes) y 5.4 rebotes por partido. Si acotamos los números a los últimos 15 de esos partidos, las cifras suben a los 19.5 puntos (52.5 por ciento en tiros de campo y 48.2 por ciento en triples) y 6.2 rebotes por partido.

“Es claramente uno de nuestros mejores jugadores,” dijo Rick Carlisle recientemente. “Le necesitamos con esa mentalidad de atacante y creador de jugadas. Necesitamos que sea sólido y con recursos en defensa.”

Con la mejora de su rendimiento también llegó un mayor protagonismo en ataque, aunque Carlisle y los Mavericks prefieran mantener un sistema equilibrado en el que ningún jugador sea el único foco. Desde el 1 de enero al 29 de febrero su porcentaje de uso fue del 21.8 por ciento. En los 15 últimos partidos de esa muestra, subió al 24 por ciento. No es una cifra excesiva, ni mucho menos: un total de 60 jugadores tuvieron un mayor porcentaje de uso en ese mismo periodo de tiempo, pero solo uno de ellos forma parte de los Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki. De la forma en la que plantearon esta temporada, Mark Cuban ya avisó al principio de la temporada de que preferían tener a cuatro jugadores promediando 15 puntos que a uno por encima de los 20.

Eso no resta mérito alguno a lo que está haciendo Parsons, por supuesto, y si sigue siendo tan efectivo su uso en el ataque solo puede ir al alza. Porque lo más impresionante de lo que ha hecho Parsons en estos dos meses es su efectividad. Solo hay tres jugadores que desde el 1 de enero tengan al menos un 50 por ciento de acierto en tiros de campo y un 45 por ciento en triples con un porcentaje de uso mayor al 21,5 por ciento: Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard y Chandler Parsons.

“Ahora mismo siento que cada lanzamiento suyo va a entrar,” dijo Dirk Nowitzki después de la victoria contra Minnesota. “Está con un gran ritmo ahora mismo, se puede ver la confianza que tiene en los tiros que está lanzando. Los está buscando, está siendo agresivo. Está siendo algo divertido de ver.”

Parsons se encuentra mejor físicamente ahora, pero ha tenido que trabajar mucho para llegar al punto actual. Y no solo en cuanto a acondicionamiento físico, también en otras facetas de su juego, como la mecánica de lanzamiento. El año pasado ya empezó a realizar algunos cambios junto a Carlisle, y esta temporada lo está llevando un paso más adelante, trabajando incluso con Nowitzki y su mentor Holger Geschwindner.

Los dos primeros son ejemplos de la temporada pasada, en los que se aprecia cómo Parsons se inclina tanto en el aire que su equilibrio no es el adecuado a la hora de soltar el balón.

Sin embargo, en este ejemplo de esta temporada ya podemos observar que el alero ha hecho cambios para corregir esa inclinación, exagerada a veces en el pasado, y el punto en el que suelta el balón, algo que ahora hace en su punto más alto, y no subiendo o casi bajando como anteriormente. En muchos de sus lanzamientos se sigue inclinando un poco, a veces con los pies saliendo demasiado, pero en el tronco y la parte superior del cuerpo se mantiene estable. También ha conseguido que el balón haga un arco mayor antes de llegar al aro, y su mecánica le da más importancia al impulso que da la muñeca al balón, y no tanto el brazo.

“Siempre pensé que su lanzamiento era demasiado plano,” dijo Dirk Nowitzki al respecto. “Se inclinaba hacia atrás y a partir de ahí lo lanzaba. Pero ha estado trabajando en ello, dándole un arco mayor, sin saltar tanto hacia adelante y sin inclinarse tanto. Ahora lo está haciendo genial pero, como con todo, tienes que seguir trabajando en ello. Si sigue con esta confianza, el cielo es el límite.”

“Definitivamente, creo que estoy jugando mejor que nunca,” dijo Parsons. “Está siendo divertido, y obviamente he trabajado extremadamente duro para llegar a este punto, pero hay que seguir haciéndolo. No vale con tener un partido bueno de vez en cuando.”

Precisamente eso es algo que también está consiguiendo: cada vez es más habitual que Parsons tenga un partido bueno. Esta es su progresión anotadora durante la temporada:

Mes Puntos por partido (ppg) True Shooting Percentage (TS%)
Noviembre 8.0 52.2
Diciembre 10.5 52.3
Enero 16.1 61.5
Febrero 18.8 65.0

En especial su lanzamiento de tres puntos está siendo un arma clave para el funcionamiento del ataque de Dallas. Desde el 1 de enero, su 45.4% de acierto en triples es la quinta mejor marca de toda la NBA entre aquellos que lanzan al menos 4.5 veces por partido desde la larga distancia, solo por detrás de Stephen Curry, J.J. Redick, Jerryd Bayless y Trevor Ariza.

“Volví antes de lo que todos esperaban,” dijo Parsons. “Mis doctores, el cirujano, mi agente, Carlisle, Cuban … y todos ellos me ayudaron cuando estaba frustrado, y me dijeron que esto es un proceso muy largo. Obviamente, en aquel momento, no quería creerlos. Tenía problemas, fallaba lanzamientos, solo jugaba en tandas de cuatro minutos. Me sentía como si estuviese rompiendo el ritmo del equipo, a veces como titular y otras como suplente, era todo un lío. Estoy contento porque todo el dolor, toda la lucha y todo el trabajo que he puesto me ha hecho mejor jugador, y me doy cuenta de que nadie ha trabajado tan duro como yo para llegar hasta aquí.”

Inside the Mavs’ post-All-Star offensive explosion

Since the All-Star break, no team has scored more efficiently than the Mavericks.

Dallas has scored 116.0 points per 100 possessions in five games since the break, which leads the NBA. To give you an idea of just how dominant that is, Golden State’s 112.6 rating leads the league for the entire season. Now, as Rick Carlisle pointed out, the Mavericks have had a relatively easy stretch of schedule in the back half of February, so this is no time for his players to revel in their own success — “We can’t fall in love with ourselves,” he warned Monday — but there’s no denying the Mavs have shown positive signs of progress in the last couple weeks.

You can’t control who you play in this league, but you can control how well you play, and Dallas has done just that as of late. For example, in the six quarters (plus an overtime period) since halftime against Denver on Friday night, the Mavericks have scored 206 points. That’s an awful lot of points, and outbursts like that don’t happen by accident.

One huge source of the Mavs’ offensive success, especially in the last few games, has been the team’s nearly exclusive shift to a 4-out offense. Earlier in the season Dallas would play plenty of minutes with two traditional big men on the floor, but lately that hasn’t been the case, as Chandler Parsons has picked up almost all of the backup power forward minutes, even in situations when he was at a size and strength disadvantage. Against Minnesota on Sunday night, Parsons frequently matched up against the much bigger Karl-Anthony Towns or Gorgui Dieng, and he even guarded Jahlil Okafor last weekend in a win against Philadelphia.

The Mavericks have once again uncovered and embraced the pure, wide-open 4-out offense that has separated good offenses from great ones in recent seasons. And while the offensive surge the team is enjoying has been short-lived — so far — there are plenty of trends and sequences worth taking a look at that can help to explain why the Mavericks have been playing so well, and how that can perhaps translate into future success. And, when you’re talking about a good team performing at a high level, it only makes sense to start with the stars. On this team, that’s the “Four Horsemen:” Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, and Deron Williams, and, conveniently, much of their individual success is tied to one another. Let’s see how.

CHANDLER PARSONS

There aren’t many players in the NBA whose numbers will jump off the page like Parsons’ this past month. Dating back to Jan. 18, the forward is averaging 20.3 points on 53.5 percent shooting from the field and 50.5 percent from deep, to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He’s getting buckets and he’s doing it efficiently.

First and foremost, Parsons has scored a ton of points at the power forward position. While correlation doesn’t always equal causation, one could make the case the move has benefited Parsons to a huge degree.

Dallas has of course been creative when it comes to getting its rising star in position to take advantage of a mismatch, too, even when Parsons is playing small forward. You’d expect nothing less from Rick Carlisle. Here, Parsons sends an inbound pass to Nowitzki, who immediately flips it back to the forward and sets a ball-screen, forcing the defense to switch. Then Parsons — out of a classic triple-threat position, no less! — drives right around the outmatched Kenneth Faried and has his bucket counted after the Nugget commits a goaltending violation. (Click to view the .gifs.)

At one point against Minnesota, Parsons found himself guarded by the much bigger Dieng in the corner. As he prepared to catch a Raymond Felton pass to the corner, Parsons took a step toward the basket, putting himself in position to attack immediately off the catch. That’s a smart move, especially when he already has a quickness advantage over his defender, as it makes him impossible to stop en route to the rim.

What has really stood out about Parsons’ play this season, particularly in recent weeks, now that he’s inching closer toward the finish line of his recovery process, has been his play in transition. He’s scoring 1.311 points per possession in those situations this season, which ranks second in the NBA among players with at least 100 transition possessions, according to Synergy Sports. Against the Timberwolves, he scored eight fast break points himself.

With between 22-18 seconds left on the shot clock, he’s got a 68.8 effective field goal percentage this season, which ranks 10th in the league among 139 players with at least 50 attempts within that range. With between 18-15 seconds remaining, his eFG climbs to 69.3 percent, which ranks second in the league among 160 players with at least 50 field goal attempts in the range. That is some seriously effective offense early in the clock, which makes the fact that he’s now beginning to implement Nowitzki’s famous trailing three into his game even more terrifying for opposing defenses.

WESLEY MATTHEWS

As scorching-hot as Parsons has been, Matthews has been equally sizzling. He’s hit 15 of his last 31 three-point attempts, averaging 17.0 points in his last four games. During that time, he has a 72.2 eFG% on catch-and-shoot jumpers, including a 48.1 three-point percentage.

As the Mavs’ offense has heated up in other areas, especially as 4-out has become more prevalent, it’s opened up better opportunities outside for Matthews to exploit. On this play, the Mavericks work the ball all the way around the horn off of Raymond Felton’s penetration, and Matthews ends up with a wide-open corner 3.

There are only five defenders on the floor at any given moment, so if you can draw two or more into the lane on a drive and then kick the ball out and move it around the arc, there’s just no way the defense stands a chance. Basketball players are the best athletes in the world, but even they aren’t capable of covering 30 feet front-to-back and 50 feet side-to-side. Sharp ball movement and precise spacing is simply too much for defenses to counter.

David Lee’s passing ability opened up a great look for Matthews against Minnesota. The Mavs’ new big man made a pass to a cutting Devin Harris from the top of the key, which forced Matthews’ defender, Shabazz Muhammad, to mull over sliding down to help out. Lee’s pass actually led Harris just a bit too far for the 2-guard to take a layup, but Matthews moved as soon as Muhammad turned his head, and ultimately he wound up wide-open for another trey. The Mavs had zero players in the lane as this play developed, which opens up a ton of real estate to work with on offense. Matthews, once again, took advantage of the resulting impact on the defense. No matter how athletic the opponent is, playing 5-out basketball like this is playing chess while the defense is playing checkers.

Also promising for Matthews is this: In his last four games, he’s also hit half his shots when he touches the ball for more than two seconds, indicating he’s getting more comfortable creating shots for himself and scoring in ways other than simply catching and shooting. He’s attacked off the bounce and he’s posted guys up, and the latter element in particular has set him apart from other players at his position in recent seasons.

DIRK NOWITZKI

The Big German is shooting well as of late. He’s hit 30 field goals combined in his last four games, the most he’s hit in any four-game stretch (without missing a game) since sinking 31 between Dec. 1-7. In the five games since the All-Star break, he’s made multiple 3s in four of the five games.

Nowitzki sliding to the 5 showed just how much respect opposing teams still give him, even at age 37. When he made the move against the Nuggets, Denver coach Mike Malone was forced to pull starting center Nikola Jokic from the game so his team wouldn’t have a serious matchup problem on the defensive end. Nowitzki remains too quick and just plain too good on the outside to be defended by big men who lack experience checking guys in that area of the floor.

Now, when teams go small against the Mavericks, that also opens up opportunities on the inside for Nowitzki as a conventional roll man. In the play below, there’s no one but a point guard to impede the 7-foot German’s progress to the basket.

One solution is to collapse the weakside defense down into the paint in order to clog things up so Dirk doesn’t have such an easy look at the rim, but that leaves shooters wide-open on the far side of the floor. Nowitzki has always been an underrated passer, and this play demonstrates his court vision.

The most notable thing about the two plays above is how simple they are. The pick-and-roll is one of the oldest plays in the book, but as teams have begun playing smaller and smaller and dotting the floor with more shooters, there’s a lot more nuance when it comes to defending it. Rotations have to be precise, communication has to be strong, and decision-making has to be instinctive and immediate.

As a defender, you can’t hesitate. If you do, you risk being burned for either a dunk or a three-pointer. Dallas made 18 shots inside the restricted area against the Timberwolves, for example, with many of them coming out of pick-and-roll sets. The Mavs have also made double-digit 3s in six of their last seven games, too.

DERON WILLIAMS

Williams has averaged 8.0 assists plus secondary (“hockey”) assists in his last seven games, a huge step up from the 4.3 he averaged in his previous six appearances. In these last four games, his teammates are connecting on 51.4 percent of their 17.5 field goal attempts per game following a Williams pass, including 61.4 percent on 11.0 2-point shots.

Sometimes a point guard’s best trait is knowing when to score and knowing when to distribute the ball. Williams has done a terrific job walking that line this season, as he’s been one of the best closers in the NBA while also operating at the helm of a Dallas offense that’s beginning to sharing the ball at an extremely high level. The Mavericks have dished out 20+ assists in seven straight games, their second-longest streak of the season, and recorded a season-high 34 against the Wolves. Williams finished with nine dimes in that game against 10 field goal attempts.

He also has the awareness to know when to take the shot, when to swing the ball, and when to attack. The decision isn’t always an easy one to make, but Williams has been in this league a long time and he has a better feel for the game than most guys in this league will ever develop. This play is a good example.

His first thought was to swing the ball to Parsons in the corner, but the Nuggets defense had already committed to taking that away. Once that failed, rather than trying to gather himself and take a forced three-pointer, Williams instead saw a wide-open driving lane and attacked the rim, forcing an already scrambling Nuggets defense even further out of position, resulting in a wide-open trey for Matthews in the corner.

Plenty of other players on the roster have contributed in the last four games, including new addition David Lee, who’s been stuffing the box score since putting on a Mavs jersey for the first time. But the core of Parsons, Matthews, Nowitzki, and Williams has been so in-sync the last several games, and that’s the biggest reason for the Mavs’ success of late. The hope, of course, is that this wave of momentum can carry the team all the way through to the playoffs, but there’s still plenty of basketball left.

If Dallas continues to play 4-out, move the ball effectively, and take advantage of mismatches at various positions, scoring won’t be an issue for the Mavericks. They’ve played inspired offensive basketball, especially in the last six quarters. The numbers speak for themselves.