For the past 17 years, the Mavs' offense orbited around Dirk Nowitzki’s revolutionary skill set. His unique brilliance allowed talented players with inefficient tendencies (Nick Van Exel, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Monta Ellis) to excel in Dallas. As Dirk fades into the sunset, the Mavs need to retool their offense around a player with an efficient playing style. That player is not Monta Ellis; it's Chandler Parsons.
When Parsons signed his $46 million contract in July, it was considered a necessary overpay for the Mavs. However as the season has progressed, Parsons has exhibited traits that deem him worthy of his pricey contract. 6’10 forwards who can create out of pick and roll, knock down 3s and defend their position don’t grow on trees.
Parsons’ seven-game absence highlighted how valuable he is to this Maverick team on both ends of the floor. Without him, the offense lacked diversity in its attacks from different points on the floor. Rondo and Monta would get in the lane, kick out a pass to Jefferson or Villanueva or whoever, and the offense would stagnate. Parsons attacking out of secondary action was more essential to the offense than many of us realized.
In the four games since his return, Parsons hasn't been relegated to attacking only on secondary action. Carlisle has liberated Parsons and allowed him to initiate the offense as the primary option. The results have been terrific: 20.5 points and 5 rebounds a game on 61.2 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arc in four games since his return.
Parsons newfound ballhandling responsibilities should be a mainstay in the offense as the Mavs head into the playoffs. In their pick and roll heavy offense, it would behoove the Mavs to feature Parsons as their primary option. Amongst players who have at least 100 possessions as a ball handler in the pick and roll, Parsons is currently third in points per possession, first in field goal percentage, second in effective field goal percentage and second in scoring frequency per NBA.com. Additionally, Parsons is second in total points out of spot up situations. In other words, Chandler Parsons is the Mavs’ best offensive player.
In his 31-point performance against the Thunder, Parsons’ versatile and efficient skill set was on full display. He scored solely on layups, runners, free throws and three pointers.
Almost 80 percent of Parsons' FGA have come either at the rim or from 3 since returning from injury.— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) March 17, 2015
Featuring Parsons as the primary option is also conducive to his teammates. The Rondo-Parsons connection is a little more organic than the Rondo-Monta pairing. In the last few weeks, Carlisle has incorporated a few plays where Rondo hits Monta coming off a screen for a mid range jumper. It's a nice little wrinkle that allows Monta to get a couple easy shots. However, Rondo probing the defense and finding Parsons for a three is a much better shot for the Mavs. Furthermore, Parsons has a preternatural feel for off-ball cuts that Monta just doesn't possess. Due to injuries, Rondo and Parsons have only played 24 games together. As the offensive focus shift towards Parsons, their synergy together should only grow.
Monta is still a very important piece to this offense, but it may be time for a hierarchical shift between him, Parsons and Nowitzki. As it stands right now, Monta is an overqualified sixth man. Parsons and Monta should be options 1a/1b right now. Monta is still the best shotmaker on this team, but building a team around a 6'3 shooting guard, who is an average defender, is a poor decision. Furthermore, Parsons' emergence could save the Mavs some money in their negotiations with Monta if he chooses to opt out.
Al-Farouq Aminu should benefit greatly from Parsons' increased role, too. There will come a time in the playoffs, especially if they play Memphis or the Clippers, where Carlisle will need to sit Dirk in crunch time for Aminu. If Parsons and Monta can buoy the offense, Carlisle can deploy the Rondo-Monta-Parsons-Aminu-Tyson lineup for longer stretches. In a fun exercise of small sample size theater, this lineup has a 66.8 defensive rating in 37 minutes. That's just a glimpse into the complete chaos Parsons and Aminu cause when they're on the court. In 189 minutes together, Parsons and Aminu have a 110.3 offensive rating and a defensive rating of 89.
Handing the reins to Chandler Parsons should be the next evolution of this Maverick team. He has the skills to lead this team offensively while empowering the players around him. It's time to treat him like the max player he is.