We've talked a lot about Chandler Parsons, the glamorous forward who is sort of the future of the Mavericks, maybe, but also was even one of their best five (six? seven?) players on the roster for the first two months of the season. And not by any fault of his own, but thanks to a laborious recovery period from a minor hybrid microfracture knee surgery underwent last May.
Since then, Parsons has slowly worked his way back from a harsh minutes restriction and, in the past few weeks, finally looked like the player he was during his best stretches of last season, where those watching Dallas began to realize the potential of the 6'9 shooter with guard-like dribbling and driving abilities.
As we continue our series looking at where the Mavericks fall position by position within the Western Conference, we have to consider Parsons' slow every season progress just a bit, plus the fact that they never replaced Richard Jefferson this summer, who was slotted in as the backup small forward. Wesley Matthews has instead played out of position, spending more time at small forward than ever before in his career. It hasn't always been the smoothest option, but with two thirds of the season completed, it feels like the Mavericks have finally found some equilibrium -- which leads to a respectable ranking among the 15 teams.
More people will prefer Kevin Durant here, and that's fine. For me, give me Kawhi Leonard, an elite two-way player who is shooting impossibly good based on what I thought he'd be coming out of college (an athlete with no real NBA skills). Factor in another rando the Spurs pulled out of God-knows-where in Jonathon Simmons and San Antonio is the top pick here.
KD is merely inches behind Leonard and the Spurs, of course. The man gets you 28 points per game with a 51/39/89 shooting line. That's incredible and absurd and ridiculous all at once. Plus, Kyle Singler's sort of rounded into form, after not even having a positive PER early in the season.
3. Utah Jazz
I like Gordon Hayward more than Chandler Parsons. They're comparable, but I see Hayward's numbers as a No. 1 option in Utah and can only think how he could improve those with more talent and help around him. His ability to create good shots for himself in isolation is a useful trick, too, one that Parsons really can't do consistently. Plus, Utah has more depth behind him, while Dallas doesn't.
I don't like Trevor Ariza over Chandler Parsons, but the combination of Ariza and Corey Brewer beats Chandler Parsons and nobody, in my mind. Ariza's great, too! He has a clearly defined role and he'll go out and do it consistently every time.
Figuring out exactly how Harrison Barnes can or can't be is the (many) million dollar question headed into the summer of 2016. Does Golden State let him go, figuring almost any tall wing shooter can match his production? Does another team max him out (or at least get close), hoping for a James Harden-type expansion into stardom like his efficiency and toolbox suggests he may be able to take? Who knows. But between Barnes' consistent production, Finals MVP Andre Iguodala coming off the bench and players like Brandon Rush filling in like it's nothing, the Warriors can't be ranked any lower.
6. Dallas Mavericks
Particularly in the Western Conference, the small forward position is weak. Parsons comes in sixth and could have been higher if Dallas had actually began the season with a reasonable backup, instead of just throwing three guards out every time he was out of the game. Justin Anderson's come on a bit lately, but it's a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things thus far.
I was tempted to drop Dallas even further, because Rudy Gay's been in a killer groove ever since coming to Sacramento. Eh, we're a Mavericks blog. This is fine.
Danilo Gallinari has been a favorite of mine for a while, and he's having a quietly solid year.
Ah, our old friend Al-Farouq Aminu. He's shooting 35 percent while attempting four triples a night for Portland! That's really significant given his defense. I'm happy for him.
Not for lack of better options, but Matt Barnes has been playing alright. Courtney Lee was a nice two-three combo guy, too, but he was just traded to Charlotte.
Paul Pierce is washed, Lance Stephenson is no better and once again, Los Angeles doesn't have a small forward.
An awkward mix-and-match of Alonzo Gee and Dante Cunningham, with Quincy Pondexter out for the year.
13. Phoenix Suns
P.J. Tucker's a good, quality role player and about the only thing that's not wrong with the Suns right now, but he really shouldn't be starting.
Kobe's a small forward this year, I guess. Him and Nick Young. Aight.
Tayshaun Prince and Shabazz Muhammad, no thanks.