Practice Report: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons weighs in on how good it was to see Deron and Wes back on the floor, his status for Wednesday's regular season opener against the Suns and more.

The fourth quarter is when games are won and lost, and in the Mavs’ case last season the final frame was very kind.

Dallas went 36-2 in 2014-15 when taking a lead into the final quarter, one of the best marks in the NBA. By comparison, the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors went 57-3 in similar situations. Their win percentage in that scenario — .950 — is just a shade better than the Mavericks’ .947 mark. That’s winning basketball.

The driving force behind the team’s success in the fourth quarter last season was shooting guard Monta Ellis, who led the Mavericks by scoring 5.3 points per game in the final frame on 42.9 percent shooting from the field. Dirk Nowitzki chipped in with 4.1 points — but his average of 3.2 field goal attempts was much lower than Ellis’ 4.6 attempts. Charlie Villanueva finished third on the team, scoring 3.1 points per fourth quarter.

The challenge this season will be to find a player capable of creating offense the way Ellis was able to during his time in Dallas. Now playing with the Indiana Pacers, Ellis was able to attack the basket in the pick-and-roll, generating relatively easy looks for himself at the rim with the option of kicking it out to a shooter on the wing. But with Ellis gone, that playmaking void must be filled. And the Mavericks will likely look to their sixth-highest-scoring player in the fourth quarter from last season, Chandler Parsons, to step up to the challenge.

Parsons scored just 2.7 points per game in the fourth quarter last season, but his role in the late-game offense increased as the season went on. In fact, in his last complete game of the season before suffering a knee injury that would eventually sideline him for almost the entire postseason, Parsons scored 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting and handed out an assist as the Mavericks scored a road win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. After spending the summer rehabilitating his knee and hoping for an expanded role on the offensive side of the ball, Parsons appears to be the favorite, along with new teammate Deron Williams, to quarterback the club as games draw to a close.

It’s difficult to draw too much from the Mavs’ strategy in the fourth quarter last season as it relates to Parsons, as Ellis was almost completely responsible for the offense late in games — Ellis’ usage rate was a sky-high 27.7 percent in final frames last season, while Nowitzki’s was a stout 25.5 percent. That means that, while those players were on the floor, Ellis and Nowitzki collectively used more than half of the team’s possessions. Parsons’ meanwhile, had a usage rate of just 20.5 percent.

But if we expand the window a bit, it appears Parsons should do very well late in games, especially in combination with the reliable Nowitzki and shooting guard Wesley Matthews. According to NBA.com, of the top 100 players in the NBA last season by field goal attempts, no one had a higher effective field goal percentage in the second half and overtime than Matthews. That’s right. No one.

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Matthews’ 57.8 eFG percentage tied with Stephen Curry for the highest mark in the league. And you don’t have to look too much further down the list to find Parsons, who slotted in at ninth place with a 54.0 eFG percentage on 5.6 field goal attempts. As the forward’s workload increases, the challenge will be to maintain a high level of efficiency. But when paired with a strong shooting partner like Matthews — not to mention the craftiness of Nowitzki, who remains an isolation virtuoso — Parsons’ looks should be clean by virtue of the opposing defense having to account for shooting all over the floor.

It’s Matthews, in particular, who shined brightest last season as a shooter in the fourth quarter when the lights are brightest. Among the top 50 in attempts, he tied Anthony Morrow for the highest eFG on jump shots in the fourth quarter and overtime at 61.2 percent, per NBA.com.

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While the onus might be in part on Parsons to make plays for himself and for others, Matthews could be the one who will capitalize the most off of the floor geometry. After spending years alongside playmaking point guard Damian Lillard and post-up offensive anchor LaMarcus Aldridge, Matthews knows how to play off of his teammates and position himself to score. (He can also make plays in the post himself, and that could very well be an option for Dallas late in games, too.)

Dallas is without Ellis, its primary go-to option in crunch time last season. But between Parsons, Matthews, Nowitzki, and of course Deron Williams, there are plenty of playmaking options at Carlisle’s disposal to play through this season. How it will all shake out remains up in the air, but this is a group of players with a track record suggesting each can make things happen in the fourth quarter.

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