Few people outside the organization knew what to expect from Chandler Parsons heading into the 2015-16 campaign. When the preseason began, there was still considerable doubt that Parsons would even see the floor before the calendar needed to be changed. You might recall Chandler’s ominous reply to the previously unanswered question of whether the surgery he had was of the microfracture variety:
"I don’t think they want me to answer if it was or not."
That rightly raised many an eyebrow, and given the 6-8 month timetable of recovery typically associated with microfracture, it would have at that point been easy to envision the season being a lost one for the fifth year forward from Florida. Then, just before the preseason concluded, news surfaced that Parsons was cleared for contact drills and 5-on-5 practice sessions, paving the way for him to be ready to go the first week of the regular season, on a minutes-restricted basis.
For any who scoffed at the term "hybrid microfracture" that has been introduced now in describing Parsons’ surgery, what seems clear is that Chandler was able to return to the court much faster than most would have predicted, and that turned out to be an important step, even if it didn’t pay immediate dividends.
By his own admission, Parsons didn’t play his best the first couple of months of the 2015-16 season. He didn’t have the lift or burst we’d seen before, and it limited him to being a purely perimeter-oriented player in the early going. For a rhythm guy, it surely must have been frustrating having to sit down just as he was getting momentum, as well. The explosive quarters Parsons tended to have when he was hot weren’t there because he had a 25 minute cap that wasn’t removed until mid-December.
When the leash finally came off, we saw what CP could be capable of.
January and February were dominant months for Parsons, who was unconscious from deep over a 30-game stretch where he made 75 of 154 threes (48.7 percent!). The outside shooting set up the rest of his offensive attack, which features one of the best pump fakes in the league and a knack for using his combination of size and ball-handling to create driving angles opponents can’t stop. Parsons’ long strides and high dribble were too much for small forwards at the 3, but Chandler really shined when he shifted to the 4 and could blow by power forwards who weren’t prepared to defend so far from the basket.
All told, over his last 26 games, Chandler Parsons averaged north of 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, all with superb efficiency, although it didn't translate to the kind of winning record you'd hope for (Dallas won just 10 of those 26 contests because the rest of the team kind of fell apart around CP). Still, that looks a lot like the kind of individual production you'd expect from a guy making $15 million a year.
Unfortunately, this season ended in similar to fashion to the last one for Parsons: with a knee injury. Though this injury -- a torn meniscus -- is less severe than what happened in 2015 (by all accounts he will be ready to go by the start of training camp), it was a disappointing outcome, because it meant Parsons had to once again sit and watch his team be dispatched from the playoffs in five games.
Chandler Parsons will opt out of the final year of the three year, $45 million deal he signed back in the summer of 2014, as many expected, and now Dallas has a difficult decision to make. He is widely believed to desire a max or near-max contract (which would start in the neighborhood of $22 million the first year), and at age 27 -- even with his injury history -- he will have many suitors. While even the most ardent Parsons supporters wouldn’t argue he’s truly a "max player" (an increasingly meaningless term), given the state of the franchise, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson are in a position where they almost have to give him what he wants.
I don’t believe Chandler Parsons is ever going to be a first option on a championship team. However, 6’9" guys who can shoot, dribble and pass are rarer than you might think, and if Parsons can maintain the flashes of brilliance we’ve seen the last two seasons for longer than a couple of weeks at a time, he could push himself into the All-Star conversation. Check out this great gif-laden piece from Tim that breaks down how Parsons can be a lethal scorer/creator when he gets going.
Even if he never makes an All-Star team, Parsons' value lies not in prolific point totals, but in his ability to mesh with seemingly any lineup. If a team needs spot up shooters, CP can do that. If they need a secondary ball-handler to run pick and roll, CP can do that. If they need a guy who can get out and run, or a guy who will be patient and make smart cuts in a half-court offense, CP's your guy, and at the other end, if they need a guy who can guard multiple positions, CP can do that, as well.
Contrast that with someone like Monta Ellis, who was really outstanding in a couple of key areas, but needed very specific players next to him to offset his glaring weaknesses. Building a team with someone like Parsons is a lot easier than building a team with someone like Monta (and yes, one is about to cost more than twice what the other does, but this is where NBA salaries are headed).
In addition to the tremendous versatility Parsons presents on the court (when healthy), he brings a lot to a franchise off the hardwood, as well. The Dallas Mavericks have boasted of their strong "winning culture" in the Dirk era, and players like Parsons and last year's big free agent signee, Wesley Matthews, would go a long way toward continuing that tradition in the eventual post-Dirk era. Parsons is considered a great teammate, he's a marketable guy with the looks and personality to increase the club's visibility (something Dirk has never been never particularly interested in doing), and his much ballyhooed "recruiting" skills would become legendary if Parsons was able to finally reel in a big fish for the Mavs.