Raymond Felton comes up huge in Mavs’ comeback win against Denver

Postgame: Raymond Felton

Mavs G Raymond Felton dishes on his clutch play down the stretch of Friday's OT win over the Nuggets.

At halftime, the Mavericks needed a change.

Dallas had fallen behind the Nuggets by as much as 23 points in the second quarter, due to a slow start from the field, a few sluggish turnovers, and red-hot Denver shooting. Toward the end of the second, however, Dallas appeared to have found something: a lineup including Dirk Nowitzki at the 5, Chandler Parsons at the 4, and Raymond Felton as the primary initiator erased half the deficit and gave the Mavericks the offensive kick they needed.

The change Dallas made at intermission — to start Felton instead of Zaza Pachulia out of the break — is probably a one-game adjustment, but that adjustment worked awfully well. Felton was terrific after the break, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, six assists, four rebounds, and a key steal late in the game. To put it simply, he brought a level of dynamic play we haven’t seen from a Mavs guard in some time. He finished +30 on the night, in a game that went to overtime.

“Ray’s a gamer. He’s a big-game guy,” Rick Carlisle said after the win. “He’s been coming through for us all year in a lot of these instances, but I don’t know if any effort was bigger than tonight’s.”

Felton has closed plenty of games for the Mavericks this season, most notably an early-season win in Houston when Dallas was without Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, and Wesley Matthews. Last night, however, those three players watched from on the floor instead of from the sideline as the combo guard carried the offense down the stretch. He hit his final five shots from the field and scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a game-tying layup with 10 seconds left. Dallas trailed by nine points with 1:50 left.

“I’m the type of person that I don’t shy away from anything,” Felton said. “I’m not scared of anything.”

A huge source of the Mavericks’ offensive efficiency in this game was the Felton/Nowitzki pick-and-roll. With Nowitzki playing the center position, the Nuggets were forced to go small, meaning if Nowitzki’s man didn’t switch over to Felton, Denver risked conceding wide-open layups. Either that, or the defense had to collapse to limit the penetration, which meant open looks for Dallas shooters. Altogether, Dallas scored 78 points on 57 possessions in which an attacker got the ball into the paint via drive or pass, good for 1.37 points per possession. The Mavs have only reached that level of efficiency on that volume of possessions three other times this season, winning every game. The last time they scored more than 78 points off of paint attacks was in a January win against Minnesota, when they also went very small with Parsons at the 4.

“When you’ve got a guy like Dirk Nowitzki, they’re scared to leave him because he’s such a great shooter,” Felton said. “When I come off that pick, that big man has to make a decision: Either you’re gonna leave him or you’re gonna have to leave me. They weren’t leaving Dirk and it was giving me an open lane to the basket, so I was just trying to do a good of of either finishing or finding someone else.”

Dallas going super-small with a Parsons/Nowitzki frontcourt might not be easy to replicate in future games, as much will depend on the matchups. For example, with games against Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Vucevic, and DeMarcus Cousins on the horizon, it would almost be unfair to expect the German to bang with those big guys on the block. That’s where Zaza Pachulia and the other Mavericks centers will have to step up. But the smallish big duo finished the game +30 — identical to Felton’s rating — so it’s hard to deny the unit’s potency. We’ll see if Carlisle turns to it again, but one thing’s for sure: If things aren’t going well for the Mavericks, the head coach is never afraid to make changes on the fly to give the team a chance to win. Against Denver, that was the change that needed to be made.

That he followed through with that change only illustrates the importance of each individual contest moving forward. Carlisle recently called every remaining game on the schedule a “Super Bowl.” Dallas is mired in a tight race for the playoffs, fending off Portland, Houston, and Utah from behind and looking ahead to catch Memphis for fifth place. These teams are packed together, and when that’s the case, every single game matters, especially when they come at home. The Mavericks might not have two weeks to prepare for each game like it’s the Super Bowl, but Dallas must take that kind of mental approach. That doesn’t just go for the starters, either. As a reserve on a Carlisle-coached team, you never know when your moment will come. But when it does, you’ve got to be ready to help the team.

“Every game going forward is gonna be the biggest game of the year,” Carlisle said.

This was the Mavs’ biggest win of the season simply because it wasn’t a loss. That’s how it’s going to be the rest of the way. On this night, Felton not only answered the bell, but he closed the door on Denver.

Chandler Parsons at the 4 could have staying power

We’ve seen two major changes with this team in the month of January: Chandler Parsons is playing lights-out basketball, and he’s playing an awful lot of minutes at the power forward position.

Whether those two things are connected is for the Mavericks to decide, but there appears to be a fairly significant correlation between the two. The small forward is shooting 52.0 percent this month and is averaging 25.4 points per game in his last five contests. He’s getting to the rim more often as well, averaging 6.0 drives in his last five outings, per SportVU, as opposed to 4.2 a night before his recent run. Those rim attacks have produced 6.0 points per game for the 27-year-old Parsons.

“It’s obviously a mismatch when they’ve got a bigger, slower guy guarding me,” he said earlier this month, after the Mavericks, playing without Dirk Nowitzki, beat the Timberwolves in overtime thanks in large part to Parsons’ play. “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.”

He’s certainly found his shot lately, too, connecting on multiple treys in six consecutive games. Since Jan. 12, Parsons is shooting 57.8 percent from beyond the arc. That means defenders must either respect his shot and play tighter defense or risk getting burned by the long-ball. And considering Parsons has a speed and quickness advantage over most conventional power forwards in this league, that makes the decision even more difficult. It seems playing him at that spot has opened the floor for him and for everyone else.

Since Jan. 1, the Mavericks are scoring 1.053 points per possession with Parsons on the floor and neither Nowitzki nor Charlie Villanueva — traditionally the two power forwards in the rotation — on the floor, per nbawowy.com. Dwight Powell will occasionally play the 4-spot next to Parsons, but he’s spent more of his time this month as the small-ball center. The Mavericks have a 51.3 effective field goal percentage during that time and 32.0 percent of their total shot attempts in those situations have come from between 0-3 feet from the rim. They’re shooting 65.3 percent on those attempts.

Parsons spends a ton of time on the ball when he’s playing power forward as well, as the Mavericks look for every opportunity to exploit a possible mismatch. He’s taken good care of the ball in those situations, too, as his team has turned it over just 12.1 percent of their 356 offensive possessions. Meanwhile, opponents have turned it over 15.5 percent of the time against that particular combination of players (Parsons on, with no Dirk or Villanueva).

Shootaround: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle weighs in on tonight's matchup against the Nets, Dirk missing the All-Star cut and more.

Rick Carlisle’s biggest concern in regards to Parsons playing extended minutes at the 4 position have to do with rebounding. Nowitzki and Villanueva are both solid defensive rebounders and they have more height, length, and size than Parsons, so Dallas does potentially sacrifice strength on the glass for speed on offense. However, with Parsons at the 4 this month, the Mavericks have rebounded 76.9 percent of opponent misses, per nbawowy, which is actually a slight uptick from the club’s defensive rebounding rate on the season (76.6 percent). The 76.9 percent mark would rank tied for ninth-best in the league, while the Mavs’ overall rate ties for 11th.

“It’s important that (Parsons) holds his own on the boards,” Carlisle said. “There’s not a particular number that he has to get, but as a team, we have to get our share of rebounds. In many cases — I should say in most cases — that means the 4-man’s got to be a good defensive rebounder. … We just need Chandler to keep doing what he’s been doing in recent games, and he’s been doing a very good job.”

Parsons has at least five rebounds in six consecutive games, which ties for his longest streak since his rookie season and is the longest in his Mavs career. He’s had three games with at least seven rebounds during that time and is averaging 5.5 boards in the month of January.

If the Mavericks can continue gobbling up rebounds off of opponent misses, Parsons at the power forward spot could have some real staying power. Shawn Marion played plenty of backup 4 for the Mavericks during his time in Dallas, and with Nowitzki playing fewer minutes per game by the season, there are more backup minutes to be had. Combined with the Mavericks’ deep backcourt and penchant for playing multiple point guard-sized players at the same time throughout a game — not to mention Wesley Matthews’ defensive success against bigger wing players — it seems like Parsons could spend more time at the 4 as time wears on.

That means we could be seeing more of the eye-popping numbers he’s been putting up lately.

The more Chandler Parsons is involved, the better Mavs become

Postgame: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons comments on his season-high 21 points in Wednesday's win over the Pelicans.

When Chandler Parsons is more involved in the offense, the Mavericks are a better team.

Parsons had a season-high 82 touches in Wednesday’s win over the Pelicans, the most he’s had in a game all season, per SportVU. Dallas is 6-1 when Parsons has at least 50 touches in a game and 11-4 when he gets at least 40. When he either doesn’t play or doesn’t reach the 40-touch plateau, the Mavericks are 10-11.

Of course the team’s success doesn’t solely boil down to whether or not Parsons touches the ball. There are 14 other players on the team whose own level of performance can potentially dictate the outcome of the game. But there’s no other Maverick on the roster with such severe splits in his numbers as Parsons. It’s not just a matter of the 6-foot-10 forward being on. It’s all about getting him involved.

Parsons is one of the rare wings in the NBA with excellent size, ball-handling, playmaking, and finishing ability. In space, he can be extremely dangerous, which is why both he and the Mavs felt this summer like he was ready to take on a greater workload within the offense. However, a knee injury late last season derailed his summer workout plans and instead he was forced to focus on low-stress activity like core work, bike riding, and yoga. The forward told Mavs.com early in the summer that all of the non-basketball stuff would benefit him more than you might think, however, specifically citing “opening” his hips up to help his balance and core strength as he moves around the court.

It’s difficult to pinpoint in terms of basketball a single example in highlight form of what he’s talking about, but now that Parsons’ athletic burst is beginning to catch up with the mental side of the game, he’s starting to put up terrific stat lines. Wednesday in New Orleans, he scored 21 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists. The Mavericks are now 10-0 all-time when Parsons reaches the 5-assist mark.

He was magnificent in the first half, especially when it came to attacking and finishing at the rim. He even drove around Pelicans megastar Anthony Davis multiple times, using his infamous pump fake to get the big man off-balance before beating him for a layup.

AD fakes

Balance and agility are both big factors on plays like the one below, when Parsons makes a cut which I can’t remember other Mavs making this season.

Cut to middle

Parsons makes a cut along the baseline off a JaVale McGee screen and makes himself available on the wing. However, he notices Dante Cunningham is a few steps behind him, so Parsons immediately changes direction and cuts right back into the middle of the lane, opening himself up toward the rim and absorbing the contact before finishing with his off-hand. Remember: He’s 6-foot-10. There aren’t many guys in the league his size who can make these kinds of plays, yet Parsons makes them look rather routine.

When you’re talking about a player like Parsons, though, starting with his ability around the rim is almost burying the lede. He’s most dangerous in space with the ball in his hands, where he can make plays like this.

Attack pass

He does Cunningham dirty here, first duping him with a fake backdoor cut and then pump-faking him out of the play once he makes the catch. Then, Parsons draws Davis’ attention before dumping it off to Charlie Villanueva at the rim for an easy layup.

And then, of course, there’s the alley-oop game out of the pick-and-roll with McGee. Those two have already developed very good chemistry despite having only shared the floor a few times this season. If a screener or cut can take Parsons’ man out of the picture, he has such a good feel for finding the exact moment to make the pass.

Alley oops

All of these plays are relatively simple, but that’s kind of the point. It doesn’t require incredible Xs and Os to put Parsons in a position where he and his teammates can be successful, which is why he’s so valuable on this team. The Mavs don’t run many plays at all, and most of the ones they do run are just a few cuts and screens which lead to a standard pick-and-roll anyway.

This means there’s always a chance for Parsons not only to get a touch, but to make a play. Since the beginning of December, teammates are shooting 50.6 percent from the field following a Parsons pass — highest on the team among rotation players — and 42.4 percent on 3s. The more he’s involved, the better the Mavs become.

Last night’s win gave us a glimpse of what the Mavs are capable of becoming

Suns vs. Mavericks

Raymond Felton scores 17 points to go along with four assists to lead the Mavericks past the Suns, 104-94.

Hard things are hard.

That’s the new mantra of choice for Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, who picked up the saying on the Mavs’ last road trip after seeing it inscribed on a plaque which sits in the Oval Office. While there are admittedly very few similarities between coaching a basketball team and heading up the Executive branch, the underlying philosophy behind the quote applies just the same.

The Mavericks have been injured this season. It hasn’t just been one or two players. Nearly the entire team has fought through something — whether it be a nick, bump, bruise, rupture, or major surgery. Collectively, this club is slowly beginning to find its footing, although a 14-11 record and fifth-place position in the difficult Western Conference might indicate that the footing has long been found. That isn’t the case, though, as most notably Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews spent the entire offseason recovering from major injuries and, to varying degrees, are both still playing under minutes restrictions. Both have had their standout showings and disappointing shooting evenings, but both are prime targets of Carlisle’s new favorite catchphrase.

“Talk to Wes Matthews about hard things,” Carlisle said after practice last week. “Wes has had to endure a lot, he’s had to work extremely hard, he’s had to endure terrible shooting nights, and he’s hung in. And his wherewithal leads to nights like Washington where he breaks through.

“What Chandler is going through is hard. It’s a recovery from an injury where you’re away from the game a long time, and we have got to help him, his teammates have got to help him, and he’s got to help himself by continuing to fight through it. There’s really no other way. There’s no switch you can flip, there’s no secret sauce, there’s no magic dust. It’s just a test of will and persistence, and he’s up to it. I have zero doubt that he is completely up to it.”

There might not be a better word to describe this season’s Mavs squad than “persistent.” It takes time to bounce back after major knee surgery, a ruptured Achilles, nagging calf issues, and ankle sprains, and in Dirk Nowitzki’s case it takes an entire day’s work just to get ready for the next one. This Mavericks team has to work hard just to get to a game, let alone play in one. But you know what they say about hard things.

“Look at (Raymond) Felton,” Carlisle said. “What he went through last year, it was months that he was having to endure a recovery from a difficult injury, and a lot of people doubting him, and this, that, and the other. The guy’s hung in, and now he’s one of our most productive player, because he has hung in when hard things are hard.”

Postgame: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons comments on his performance against the Suns Monday night.

This season has been one big process that hasn’t ended and quite honestly might not end. Parsons’ timetable to get back to 100 percent might extend beyond this month, or next month, or perhaps even the next month. And while Matthews is shooting 3s at better than 40 percent in the month of December, we’re only a week or so removed from the player himself calling out his own level of performance. Things won’t come easy for these guys, but I think that’s OK with them, because the potential reward for this perseverance is worth every ounce of effort it will take and has already taken to get to the finish line.

One win in December is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but last night’s win against Phoenix gave us a glimpse of what this team could be capable of once it gets there.

There will be nights like the one the Mavs had last night — when everything comes together, when everything clicks — and those nights will be sweet. Dallas’ 104-94 win was hopefully the first of many payoffs the Mavs will receive between now and the end of the regular season. Every player contributed in some form: Deron Williams led the team with 18 points one game after sitting out with a stomach ailment, Matthews hit three 3s, and Parsons scored 17 points. Nowitzki put on a clinic in the low post and Zaza Pachulia grabbed 12 rebounds. Devin Harris made 6 steals and Felton poured in 17 points of his own. The Mavs’ offensive engine hummed to the tune of 31 points in the third quarter on 81.3 percent shooting, good for 1.722 points per possession, as Dallas built a lead Phoenix couldn’t take back. The ball was flying all night, which led to sequences of ball movement like this.

Ball Movement

The Mavs also went small, playing a 5-out lineup with Nowitzki at center and Parsons at the power forward. That group creates maximum space for the Mavs’ guards, namely Felton, to relentlessly attack the basket for either a layup or kick-out pass. Not many teams have the personnel to slow down sequences like this one, when in a matter of five seconds every player has touched the ball.

More Ball Movement

Dallas checked off all the boxes in its runaway victory against the Suns. The Mavericks moved to 6-4 when Matthews hits at least 3 three-pointers, and 7-3 when Parsons hits at least half his shots. When Williams scores at least 15, Dallas is now 7-4, and the Mavs are 5-2 when Nowitzki imposes his will offensively enough to earn at least 5 free throw attempts.

Even the Mavs’ best lineup statistically this season — Williams, Felton, Matthews, Nowitzki, Pachulia — finished +5 in 11 minutes, with a 19.7 net rating to boot. That group still leads all high-minutes lineups in the NBA in net rating. On a team full of players working through nagging nicks or potentially career-altering injuries, that five-man unit has been constant, steady, and dominant.

GettyImages-501376740

Many analysts use the metaphor of a treadmill to describe the Mavericks’ positioning in the NBA landscape. That must be one pretty great treadmill the Mavs are on, because they’re chasing only five teams with more wins this season. Dallas is 10th in offensive rating despite its players missing a combined 37 games due to injury, including six by Parsons, perhaps the most important of them all. The Mavericks rank 13th in defensive rating and 11th in net rating.

If the Mavericks are on a treadmill, last night’s runaway second half is a big, juicy carrot: This is what the team will look like when it’s finally healthy. And while that might not be right around the corner — it could be a week, a month, or more — the best way to stay motivated is to see the fruits of your labor. Dallas blew the doors off in the third quarter, as every player who appeared shot at least 66.7 percent from the field. Everyone contributed and everyone played well. The treadmill was moving.

Parsons’ strong night — 17 points on 5 of 10 shooting, including hitting two 3s — is a strong sign of progress. But, as Carlisle warned, even nights when things look easy can’t detract you from continuing to work to reach the larger goal.

“There’s a big rock, and he’s got to keep chipping away at that rock. That’s how you do it,” Carlisle said after the win, repeating his words from last week. “It takes an amazing amount of persistence and wherewithal to get through something like that. Ask Wes Matthews, ask Parsons, ask Dirk [Nowitzki] when he came back three years ago. It’s extremely difficult. These guys are all strong-willed guys.”

Hard things are hard, but the Mavs are battling through the difficult part and, slowly but surely, are getting to the place they want to be. Last night might not have been the last step, but it wasn’t the first, either.

La virtud de la paciencia (The Virtue of Patience)

Para Chandler Parsons la palabra clave en este comienzo de la temporada regular es una vieja conocida: paciencia.

A lo largo de su carrera en la NBA, Parsons ha tenido que armarse de paciencia en varias ocasiones. De hecho, ha debido hacerlo desde el mismo momento en el que comenzó su trayectoria en la liga, en el Draft de 2011. En aquella cita el alero tuvo que esperar y esperar hasta que escuchó su nombre entrada ya la segunda ronda, en el puesto 38, muy por debajo de la primera ronda en la que esperaba ser elegido.

Ya en los Houston Rockets, Parsons trabajó dura y pacientemente para convertirse en un jugador de los que marcan diferencias. Se hizo con un rol muy importante detrás de James Harden y Dwight Howard, pero los Rockets no consideraron que mereciese la pena igualar el contrato que había firmado con los Dallas Mavericks. Parsons quería ser algo más que un tercer espada, y estaba claro que en Houston iba a tenerlo difícil, por lo que puso rumbo a Dallas.

En los Mavericks el primer obstáculo fue la falta de familiaridad con los compañeros, el entrenador y el sistema. En el primer mes de competición de la temporada 2014 – 2015 el recién llegado se estrenó con unos porcentajes del 41.5 por ciento en tiros de campo y el 32.7 por ciento en triples, bastante por debajo de lo esperado. Él continuó confiando en su juego y en su adaptación progresiva, y la paciencia tuvo sus frutos. En el mes de Diciembre, y antes de la llegada de Rajon Rondo, Parsons promedió 22.2 puntos por partido con un 52.1 por ciento de acierto en tiros de campo y un 49 por ciento en triples.

Entonces llegó el mencionado traspaso de Rajon Rondo. La jerarquía con la que se regía quién dominaba el balón cambió, y Parsons sacrificó su buena racha y el control del ataque para tratar de ayudar a que Rondo se integrase en el esquema. Su porcentaje de uso pasó del 24 por ciento de las posesiones de Dallas durante las primeras tres semanas de Diciembre, a un 18.5 por ciento en el mes siguiente, según NBA.com. En este caso la paciencia no tuvo los frutos esperados, sobre todo porque Parsons sufrió una lesión en la rodilla que le llevó a perderse el final de la temporada regular y la serie de playoffs contra su antiguo equipo, los Houston Rockets.

Si alguna vez han pasado por el quirófano o han sufrido una lesión, lo primero que piden los doctores es que tengan paciencia con la recuperación. Y el caso de Parsons no es una excepción. No porque fuese a tardar mucho en volver a las canchas – de hecho, volvió antes de lo esperado en un principio – sino porque iba a llevarle semanas, quizás meses, recuperar su nivel anterior. Y en ese punto se encuentra Chandler Parsons, obligado a ser paciente una vez más, con una restricción de minutos desde el principio de la temporada que poco a poco va subiendo, pero que aún no le deja terminar los encuentros.

“Es horroroso, nunca lo había hecho antes, nunca había jugado tan poco”, comentó Parsons hace unas semanas sobre su restricción de minutos. “Es muy frustrante y es difícil conseguir ritmo. Pero es un proceso y tengo que ir paso a paso. Se trata de ver cómo responde la rodilla. Si tengo dolor o hinchazón en alguno de los partidos pararemos, pero si no, como es el caso, seguiremos subiendo mientras me siga sintiendo bien.”

Como cabe esperar cuando alguien regresa de una lesión, no se encuentra en su forma física óptima y está limitado, Parsons ha tenido un comienzo de temporada irregular. Al principio Rick Carlisle probó a utilizar al alero solo en la segunda mitad para que pudiese disputar los minutos decisivos, pero el experimento salió mal, con una derrota ante los Charlotte Hornets, y volvieron al plan original. Aun así, hay cosas en positivo que destacar de estos primeros 13 partidos.

Por ejemplo, en su mejor actuación hasta la fecha, la del pasado 16 de noviembre en Philadelphia, no solo le vimos anotar, sino también crear para otros como en esta acción con Zaza Pachulia. Bobby Karalla diseccionó dicho partido.

“El ataque está hecho a medida para alguien como yo, con mi manejo de balón para mi altura y mi inteligencia”, dijo Parsons. “Tengo a mi alrededor a Wesley [Matthews], D-Will y Dirk [Nowitzki], gente que lanza bien y elimina muchas de las ayudas defensivas porque van a tener miedo a dejarles lanzar solos. La pintura va a estar abierta, voy a poder llegar más al aro y sacar más tiros libres. Y si viene la ayuda, puedo conseguir un lanzamiento fácil para un compañero.”

Otra de sus virtudes es su capacidad para abrir la pista y generar espacios para sus compañeros. Aunque su porcentaje de triples está por ahora en un 31.3 por ciento, lo que sería la peor marca de su carrera, sigue manteniendo un 40 por ciento desde las esquinas según Basketball-Reference, algo crucial en el espaciado ofensivo de cualquier equipo.

Una de las facultades más infravaloradas de Zaza Pachulia es su capacidad para bloquear y ponerse en el camino de los defensores generando así espacio para los lanzadores, y parece que Parsons ya ha identificado esta ventaja y está sabiendo aprovechar para lanzar cómodamente de media distancia.

Algo que sí que llama la atención de manera negativa es su descenso inicial en porcentaje de tiros libres. Después de una temporada rookie en la que lanzó con un 55.1 por ciento de acierto desde la línea, Parsons había establecido su porcentaje entre el 72 y el 75 por ciento en las últimas temporadas. Pero en lo que llevamos de esta solo ha metido 6 de los 17 que ha lanzado, un 35.3 por ciento. Los tiros libres se basan en la mecánica, el ritmo del jugador, su concentración y su confianza, y de entre esos factores quizás le estén fallando al menos el ritmo y la confianza. En cualquier caso, parece una excepción que debería corregirse en las próximas semanas y meses.

“Esto es algo diferente para mí”, dijo Parsons. “Definitivamente no es divertido, pero sabíamos que no sería fácil y que estaría oxidado. Esperemos que según vaya jugando más gradualmente empiece a hacerlo como sé que puedo hacerlo.”

No poder jugar en los instantes decisivos es frustrante para cualquier jugador del nivel de Parsons, pero los Dallas Mavericks no quieren tomar riesgos con alguien a quien ven como una pieza fundamental en el futuro de la franquicia. Sus minutos irán en aumento hasta que desaparezca el límite, y los Mavs podrán contar entonces con otra de sus mejores armas también en los últimos cuartos y finales de partido. Cuanto más juegue mejor será su forma física, y cuando mejor sea su forma física más efectivo y regular será.

La paciencia ha sido una constante en la carrera de Chandler Parsons, y es un concepto al que los Mavericks y los fans de la franquicia tendrán que agarrarse en la primera parte de la temporada. Con un quinteto titular que cuenta con tres jugadores nuevos y con miembros importantes de la plantilla regresando tras lesiones importantes, se está prácticamente condenado a que existan altibajos en el rendimiento del conjunto. Pero los Dallas Mavericks deberían ir subiendo su nivel con el paso de las semanas, y si la paciencia da sus frutos, quizás sea con Parsons como líder.

Deron Williams coming into his own as Mavs PG

Postgame: Deron Williams

Mavs PG Deron Williams comments on coming back from an 18-point deficit to beat Boston Wednesday night.

Through Wednesday night’s games, among players with at least 200 possessions plus assists, Stephen Curry sits No. 1 atop the list of points scored plus points created via assist per possession. Second on that list is his teammate Draymond Green. Third is Mavs point guard Deron Williams.

The only two players in basketball generating offense more efficiently than Williams play for the undefeated defending champion. That’s it.

If the job of a point guard is to run the show, Williams has done that beautifully so far during his tenure with the Mavericks. In his 11 appearances, the Mavericks are 8-3, and a few of those wins have a lot to do with Williams. He closed out a home win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 7 and, more recently, hit a few key shots and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter alone as the Mavs stole a game from the Boston Celtics Wednesday night.

He’s also setting his teammates up to be successful, Dirk Nowitzki most of all. The power forward has connected on 59.0 percent of his field goal attempts following a Williams pass, according to NBA Stats, including a whopping 46.2 percent of his three-point shots. We all know how important it is for a Mavs primary ball-handler to establish a rapport with the No. 6 scorer in league history, and that two-man game has produced easy points all season long.

Williams presents multiple problems for opposing defenses, especially in the pick-and-roll. With is combination of vision, quickness, physicality, and a sharp jump shot, he’s able to impose his will on the game while also making the easiest decision. Basketball is complex but it’s not rocket science, and watching him play makes the game seem even less complicated.

First, the bread and butter of the Mavericks offense for the last 15 years: the 1-4 pick-and-pop.

PR Pass Dirk

This has been the go-to play for the Mavs since the dawn of Nowitzki’s career. As Williams comes off the screen, the defenders are forced either to switch or to stick to their man. Good point guards will recognize what the defenders choose and will make the appropriate decision. In this case, it was feeding Dirk for the open jumper.

Other times, they’ll both cling to Nowitzki, which in this case left Williams with an open drive.

PR Floater

Floaters aren’t easy, but Williams has already hit several this season. He’s 3-of-6 on such shots, according to Synergy Sports, and he hit two alone in the game against the Clippers. What makes floaters so effective is it’s nearly an impossible shot for a center to block due to the arc of the shot. A player like DeAndre Jordan has a clear physical advantage over the smaller Williams, but the ability to pull up for a runner eliminates that edge.

He also has the ability to pull up for mid-range shots coming off screens, which has made defending him even more difficult. When partnered with Zaza Pachulia in the pick-and-roll, he almost always gets a clean look, as the Mavs center buries Williams’ defender with the screen.

PR Easy J

PR Easy J2

Naturally, the solution to stop this would for the big man to step out and contest the shot, but that doesn’t work against Williams, either, because he can either drive around slow-footed guys or make a pass to one of his teammates.

PR Drive Big

PR Fake Pass Zaza

This is just a taste of what’s made the Mavs point guard such a dynamic player this season. He can pass and score, which is something many of the point guards of recent memory could not do. Even Jason Kidd, who won a title with the Mavs in 2011 and is a surefire Hall of Famer, couldn’t consistently score during that run the way Williams is right now. When the player running your offense is a threat to get 20 every night, the defense has to pull out every tool in the box to slow things down.

This is probably burying the lead a little bit, but Williams’ size is one of his greatest assets, more so than his speed or perhaps even his jump shot. Dallas has used him in the post fairly often this season, and it’s led to some easy points both for him and his teammates. One of the Mavs’ favorite plays is posting Williams up on the low block and sending Wesley Matthews off a double-screen at the top of the arc. It almost always results in an open three-pointer; Williams has the size and vision to see the entire floor against most point guards, so not only is he a threat to score himself, but he can distribute it from the post whenever he wants as well. Mavs shooters are 5-of-10 following a Williams pass from the post, according to Synergy Sports.

Wes Flare with D Will in Post vid

His ability down low has also forced opponents into some wonky matchup assignments. Against Boston, for example, Williams had a six-inch height advantage over Celtics starting point guard Isaiah Thomas. To avoid a major disadvantage, Celts head coach Brad Stevens instead put the larger Marcus Smart on Williams and slid Thomas over to guard Chandler Parsons. While that decision worked in the first half, as the Celtics used relentless double-teams on Parsons to blow up Mavs possessions, Dallas was able to make things work in the second half. Parsons scored a few points from the post and ultimately Boston had to resort to a more conventional defense once he exited the game. Meanwhile, that clearly didn’t bother Williams, as he shot 4-of-5 in the second half after a 1-of-6 first half.

The Mavs’ new point guard has been able to create offense both for himself and for others this season. After fighting through injuries to start the year, he appears to be quicker and more confident in recent games. We know that two-man game with Nowitzki is going to be money all year long, but if Williams can continue to elevate his game in other areas, there’s no real ceiling to what this team is capable of offensively.

Inside Chandler Parsons’ ‘best game’ of the season

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.”