Can Chandler Parsons Step Up as the Face of the Dallas Mavericks?
With Chandler Parsons running a point-forward and Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, and Dirk Nowitzki spacing the floor as potent outside shooters, the Dallas Mavericks have potential to make some noise in the ever-loaded Western Conference.
At least that’s the hope for the team who lost 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs last year to the Houston Rockets.
While the Mavericks potentially using Parsons as their focal point sounds great on paper, a number of hurdles stand in the way of the team making a deep run in the playoffs behind Parsons’ leadership.
First, Parsons and Matthews are both rehabbing injuries. Parsons has said he hopes to be ready by opening night following what was described as “minor microfracture surgery” on Parsons’ right knee. Matthews, meanwhile, is without a timetable to return, as he is still rehabbing after tearing his Achilles in March.
Secondly, Nowitzki is entering his age-37 season, and as Dale Redman pointed out, the 2014-15 campaign was the worst statistical season for Nowitzki since his rookie year.
And finally, perhaps the biggest question is whether or not Parsons can make the leap from role player to his team’s primary option without sacrificing efficiency.
From Houston to Dallas
Drafted out of Florida in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, Parsons went on to average 9.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in his rookie year, playing in 63 games and starting 57 of those.
With an expanded role in his sophomore season, Parsons showed marked improving, upping his averages to 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Parsons played in 76 games that year, starting all of them. In his third year, Parsons continued to show improvement, averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4 assists over 74 starts.
As with his statistical improvements in Houston, Parsons has shown an improved nERD score over his final two years in Houston. nERD indicates how many wins above or below .500 an average team would be with a given player as a starter over a full, 82-game season.
In 2012, Parsons posted a -0.5 nERD score and -0.2 numberFire Efficiency score, which indicates expected point differential during a single game. He improved to 2.8 and 0.8 during his final year in Houston.
With a successful three-year stint in Houston under his belt, Parsons signed a three-year, $45 million contract to leave Houston for Dallas.
In 66 games last year, Parsons played as the second- and third-option on offense, averaging 15.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while playing a tick over 33 minutes per contest. In his first year in Dallas, he shot 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from downtown, both right around his career averages.
With Dallas, Parsons posted a 2.4 nERD score last year, 55th in the league.
Parsons' season in Dallas ended early after Game 1 of the Mavericks' first-round series. After dealing with a right knee injury over the last month of the season, the Mavericks shut Parsons down.
Parsons underwent surgery in May and, thus far, the news on his recovery has been positive. He recently was allowed to dunk, and he’s eyeing a return to the court on opening night: October 28 in Phoenix.
Parsons had a relatively healthy career before missing 16 games with the Mavericks last year, more than he had missed in his two years with Houston. He missed only 14 in two seasons with the Rockets. The majority of his 16 games missed were due to his knee injury, which plagued him over the last month of the season.
Although team officials have described the procedure as minor, microfracture surgery is scary for any athlete.
Much of the excitement surrounding Parsons this season is the volume he’s expected to see.
In his first year in Dallas, Parsons logged a 20.5 percent Usage Rate. That was good enough for fifth best on the team out of players who played more than 45 games. But gone are Monta Ellis (27.7 percent) and Rajon Rondo (20.4 percent), both players who dominated the ball while on the court.
With an offense centered around Parsons’ playmaking ability, and the mismatches he can create as a 6’10” point-forward, Parsons should have the opportunity to improve upon his career best 16.6 points and 4 assists, which he posted in 2013-14.
He will have Williams (a career 36 percent three-point shooter), Matthews (39 percent), and Nowitzki (38 percent), to spread the floor and strike from downtown.
With an increased role in Dallas’ offense, one could expect Parsons to surpass his career best numbers from 2013-14 easily, right?
Parsons’ potential this year is undeniable, and fantasy players could do worse for a player being picked in the sixth and seventh rounds. He’s a matchup nightmare running the point, and Dallas has the shooters to space the floor and give Parsons all the room to be the playmaker that he’s shown the potential to be.
But, there are some serious question marks.
Microfracture surgery has torpedoed the careers of some NBA stars, and Parsons has yet to play a game since the surgery.
Additionally, Parsons has yet to be the primary option on an NBA team. He led the Florida Gators to the Elite Eight in his senior season, while being named SEC Player of the Year.
Can Parsons emulate that success and lead the Mavericks deep into the playoffs?
If his knee holds up, he has the skillset and the opportunity to do so.