It's been a rather strange last four months for Chandler Parsons.
May was meant to be the month the ex-Rocket revenged his former team in the playoffs for not matching his offer sheet the previous summer. Instead, on May 1, Parsons had knee surgery (don't ask what kind because apparently we're not going to find out) after watching from the bench as his new squad self-destructed and was dispatched in five games.
Following this debacle, roster changes were expected at least in certain cases, though as it turned out the Dallas Mavericks were about to enter into a new era: one
with DeAndre Jordan where Dirk Nowitzki would no longer be enough to carry them and, more disconcertingly, one where they would no longer be a playoff lock.
While the narrative of Parsons as "the superstar charmer" ended up being somewhat premature, there is still ample evidence that the Dallas Mavericks are putting a lot of eggs in Chandler's handsome basket. By ushering Monta Ellis out the door, it's clear the plan is for Parsons to take on a larger role in the offense; one that befits his diverse skillset and $46 million paid last offseason.
Even dating back to his time at the University of Florida, Chandler Parsons has been the consummate teammate, sacrificing personal glory to play the role that would most help his team win. Still, there is reason to believe that now could be the time for the 26-year-old to finally take the next step and be "the guy." It is true that -- although his statline has remained virtually the same as a pro -- Parsons has seen a small but gradual uptick in his usage rate: from 16.7 as a rookie, to 18.3, then 19.3, and finally 20.6 last season. As this has happened, his true shooting percentage has remained steady, suggesting that the increased workload has not exposed him.
I submit to you that CP25 (that may not catch on as a nickname) has the tools to be the Mavs' breakout star, if perhaps not in prestige than at least in results. Parsons is not the best shooter in the league, nor does he possess otherworldly athleticism, but it's hard not to appreciate how good his offensive game actually is when you watch how crafty and intelligent he is on offense. We know well how good he is as an off-ball player, spotting up, cutting to the basket and getting out in transition, but with the ball in his hands we've seen glimpses of more. He uses his deep shooting range to set up one of the game's best pump-fakes, and with his ballhandling skill and size he is an excellent driver as well, covering ground surprisingly quickly with long-striding steps.
Combining these qualities results in nearly three-fourths of his shot attempts coming either at the rim or behind the three-point line, making it no small wonder he stays so efficient. Though you didn't see it quite as much last year as when he was a Rocket, Parsons is also a very good passer for a small forward who makes good decisions out of pick and roll action. Expect Rick Carlisle and the Maverick coaching staff to devise a lot of those kind of looks for Chandler Parsons next year, just as they did with Monta Ellis the last two seasons.
Dallas may not have landed an elite PnR finishing big man (or kept the two they already had on the roster 10 months ago), but they did manage to replace brick-layers Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis with two excellent spot-up shooting guards in Deron Williams and Wes Matthews. That should really open up the floor for Parsons to operate and make plays.
While there may be some who remain unconvinced of Parsons' chops as a No. 1 option, consider this: in games where Chandler took more than 15 shots (there were 13 such contests), he averaged 22 points, more than 6 rebounds and nearly 3 assists. In these games he shot 46 percent from the field and just under 42 percent from three, all while averaging just 1.7 turnovers. Dallas was 9-4 in those games.
If that seems too favorable a sampling to select, then how about let's focus on the 10 game stretch (unfortunately bookended by injury, a theme that would prevent any kind of real rhythm for the streaky Parsons in his first season with the Mavs) in late March when Monta Ellis was slowed by injury and Parsons finally started to get the ball in crunch time. He averaged 18.3 points, shooting 38 percent from three and 53 percent from the field. This run was highlighted by back to back stellar games against the Pacers and Thunder: the former a game where Parsons led Dallas with 27 points as Monta Ellis received a very rare DNP, and the latter where Parsons outdueled Russell Westbrook by scoring 13 of his 22 points in the final five minutes, including a game-icing turnaround with 13 seconds left. If there is a singular moment I imagine the organization would point to as the foundation of their reasoning that Parsons can be this team's star player, that's likely it.
There is a (small?) cloud off in the distance of this otherwise sunny picture I'm painting for you, and it's this aforementioned knee surgery. However much faith the club has in Chandler Parsons, it shouldn't be undersold that if the nature of this "procedure" was in fact ... microfracture-y, then Chandler likely has a rather serious hill to climb up before he can be anywhere close to where he was previously, let alone ready to ascend further.
Parsons, to his credit, maintains that he will be ready by season's start, and in that we must take him at his word. If nothing else, it is encouraging that evidence of actual basketballing has started to surface now. It goes without saying that the Mavericks will need every healthy body they can get as they prepare to enter the brutal marathon that is NBA basketball in the Southwest Division.
For better or worse, it would appear that this is Chandler Parsons' team now. Whether he breaks out or breaks down will surely be the pivotal factor in Dallas' immediate future. How much better can Parsons realistically get, assuming he is healthy? Well, keep in mind, he's already one of the game's 70 best, according to Sports Illustrated. To have got to this point after there were 37 players taken before him in one draft is remarkable. Now, for Parsons, the only question that remains is can he assume the mantle of face of the franchise from legend Dirk Nowitzki as he nears eventual retirement, and in doing soon lead a proud franchise back to the playoffs once again?