When DeAndre Jordan severed the verbal tether cord binding him to the Dallas Mavericks, a franchise once synonymous with success and stability drifted into space. Dirk Nowitzki, the gravitational force keeping the Mavericks grounded for the last 17 years, can no longer elevate this team above the familiarity of chaos. Father time slipped beneath the cracks and siphoned the athleticism that once instilled night terrors in opposing coaches throughout the league. But Nowitzki's descent into the madness has opened the door for new face -- a very handsome one, at that -- of the franchise: Chandler Parsons.
What is expected from Parsons this season?
Parsons' 2015-16 campaign will provide a barometer for the vitality of this Maverick franchise over the next few years; his ceiling dictates just how far this team can go. Theoretically, Parsons should see an uptick in his usage with the transition from Monta Ellis to Deron Williams as lead ball handler. His Increased responsibilities should accompany an increase in the counting stats that draw eyeballs: points, rebounds and assists. The efficiency and analytic friendly shot selection that made Parsons a stellar role player will take a bit of hit, but that's to be expected with an increased workload.
However the real expectations of Parsons lie in the intangibles. For better or worse, he's the leader of this team both on and off the court now. It's one thing to spit out fan-endearing rhetoric during the offseason; it's an entirely different beast to rally the troops on the tail-end of a back-to-back on a dreary night in late January. Wes Matthews will help fill the leadership void left by Tyson Chandler, but at the end of the day, the onus will fall on Parsons.
In his fifth season as a pro, freed of the obligations to defer to James Harden and Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons makes the leap. His offseason surgery becomes an afterthought as he evolves into a 6'9 Swiss army knife that combines clever playmaking skills with the potency of a number one scorer. Parsons' angular forays to the rim replace Monta's high speed drives into the paint. The floater, Parsons' lethal weapon of choice during his Rockets tenure, becomes a staple in his offensive repertoire along with his pump fake of death. His ability to serve as a primary ball handler allows Carlisle abandon traditional positions and roll out all kinds of post modern lineups with the brigade of wings on the roster. The front office quietly invested in the post-positional revolution this offseason by schilling out non-guaranteed contracts to wing players with pterodactyl wingspans.
The restructuring of the offense combined with Parsons' offensive liberation culminates in the Mavericks having their first non-Nowitzki All Star since 2010. Parsons has a few stellar games on national television and a signature playoff performance that cements him as a bonfide star in this league. Parsons then leverages his newfound stardom to recruit Kevin Durant during free agency. Don't go shaking your head, technically, this is the best possible outcome.
For Parsons, and about half of the roster, the worst outcome is equally, if not more probable than the best. The hybrid microfracture surgery Parsons underwent during the offseason is worrisome to the nth degree. Remember that glorious Gilbert Arenas run during the mid-2000s when he was a human bucket machine? That ended in 2007 because of microfracture surgery on a non-weight bearing portion of his knee, much like Parsons. Arenas put up 28 points per game that season and would only play one full season after his surgery in 2007. Microfracture surgery has evolved since that time and Parsons didn't have the myriad of knee issues Arenas had during his career, but Gilbert should serve as a painful reminder that even the most friendly microfracture surgery can be catastrophic.
Parsons registers as a good but not great athlete. If this surgery knocks his athleticism down a peg, he could become a league average player--a rich man's Joe Ingles. As the lynchpin of this team, Parsons' misfortune could permeate throughout the entire organization. Prized free agents could spurn the Mavs in 2016 yet again for greener pastures and healthier limbs in Los Angeles, or god forbid, Houston. Another failed offseason forces Mark Cuban to step off the mediocrity treadmill and endure a traditional rebuild.
Again, this is the worst possible outcome.
Can Chandler Parsons become a true playmaker?
Throughout the offseason Parsons spoke about having the ball in his hands more this season to make the game easier for his teammates. When he signed his offer sheet with the Mavericks in that dimly lit Orlando nightclub, Parsons expected his playmaking opportunities to increase. They didn't. Parsons spent the first half of the season standing in the corner with his hands ready for a pass that would rarely come. In his 2013-14 campaign with Houston, Parsons assisted on 17 percent of Rockets' baskets when he was on the floor, but that number dropped to just 11 percent of baskets in Dallas. Parsons' playmaking woes were twofold last season: not only did Parsons lack playmaking opportunities, he was also flanked by perhaps the worst shooting backcourt in the league.
Both of these ailments appeared to be remedied this season, especially in the shooting department. Deron Williams and Wes Matthews should be one of the more potent three-point shooting backcourts in the league. Parsons will no longer operate in the claustrophobic spacing brought on by Rondo's shooting woes. He has the playmaking skills to average five or more assists a game, but he'll need to maintain his ability to knife through the lane in both isolation and pick and roll situations. It all hinges on the health of Parsons' knee. His rehab and Casey Smith's dark magic will dictate just how much Parsons can create off the dribble this season and going forward in his career.
Can Parsons surpass Dirk as a dancer?
No. The answer is no.