Writer's note: I wrote this late Thursday night, before the Whiteside and Batum news of Friday morning. The Mavericks' decision to not retain Parsons, as he may pair up with Mike Conley in Memphis, looks worse than ever.
Let's just get this out of the way, for the record -- I think it's pretty insane that the Mavericks are lowballing the most talented free agent that has wanted to play for their team since 2011. Chandler Parsons is not going to be a Dallas Maverick anymore not because he was snatched away by unforeseen circumstance, but because the Mavericks have decided they don't want to pay him.
For a team that has consistently failed to have any real free agent success, spurning Parsons does seem insane. Not only did he come to Dallas, but he showed flashes, embraced the city, its owner, its superstar and bought into making Dallas a contender again.
What seemed like a sure lock months ago has now crumbled. The Mavericks will not give Parsons the max and the only piece the Mavs manage to wrangle in that made sense for a post-Dirk plan is gone. Rather than say why that's a terrible idea (as we've talked about at length already), I wanted to figure out how Dallas could have come to conclusion not to pay him.
The Mavs didn't deem Parsons a max player
This is perhaps the most controversial reason for why the Mavs decided Parsons wasn't worth the max -- after all, Parsons spent his first season in Dallas learning a new system under a new coach in a new town while also trying to somehow get meaningful touches on a team that employed Monta Ellis and then later Rajon Rondo. That's not exactly the easiest backcourt to stay in the flow of the game for a player that needs to be active in the offense to contribute to his best potential. Parsons is much more than a spot-up guy.
In his second season, he spent most of it recovering from hybrid microfracture knee surgery then had his season ended by another, less serious knee surgery (I'll bring this up later). When Parsons was healthy, he produced in the box score -- he averaged over 17 points per game after the All-Star break, shooting more than 50 percent from the field, more than 47 percent from three, with about five rebounds and four assists.
Those are good numbers! Really good! Yet as Parsons started to round into form, the Mavericks circled down the drain. Perhaps it's not fair to blame Parsons for Zaza Pachulia turning into a pumpkin in 2016 and Wes Matthews never showing his Portland self, but the fact remains that from Jan. 20 until March 18 (when Parsons had his season ending injury), the Mavericks had just a plus-0.5 net rating when he was on the floor. Of course it was negative when he was off it, but the Mavs seemed to be grasping at straws anyway. It's highly possible the Mavs' front office saw the late-season win streak to get into the playoffs with rookie Justin Anderson in Parsons' place and reconsidered his worth.
Parsons' numbers during his great statistical stretch in 2016 weren't that far of a leap from his Rockets' peak. A 27-years-old with two knee surgeries, the Mavericks' front office could probably see a way in which they felt Parsons had been tapped out and his potential was maxed out. I don't believe that's true, but I can see how the Mavs front office could squint and see it in the distance.
Watching how the team took a nosedive while Parsons put up numbers initially rubbed Rick Carlisle the wrong way as well, calling out Parsons for his plus-minus and benching him in crunch time. Which leads me to another possible Mavs reasoning ...
Carlisle didn't see Parsons as a high-dollar foundation piece
I don't think Carlisle dislikes Parsons. I think he appreciates his game and likes him as a person. But I don't think Carlisle ever believed that Parsons could turn into anything more than what he was in his two years in Dallas -- a nice complimentary player with flashes of brilliance.
How much of that is on Carlisle is another question. It was clear Carlisle and Parsons had this awkwardly tense relationship throughout Parsons time in Dallas. From the crunch-time benchings, calling out his defense and the "fat' comments that kicked off their Dallas relationship, Carlisle never completely went to bat for Parsons, unlike players like Ellis, Pachulia and Tyson Chandler.
After Mark Cuban didn't heed Carlisle's advice on Rondo, perhaps Carlisle has a bit more sway this time. Cuban is undoubtedly more loyal to Carlisle over every other aspect of the Mavs organization sans Dirk. If Carlisle wasn't convinced about Parsons living up to his max contract, it's not hard to see how Cuban could be influenced.
Those pesky knee surgeries
That leads us to what is probably the biggest reason the Mavs front office aren't waving a max contract in front of Parsons as you read this -- those damn knee surgeries.
The first one was a bit of a doozy. After Parsons valiantly played through some knee soreness to try and help the Mavs in the playoffs in 2015, it was discovered shortly after that Game 1 against the Rockets that he would need to have surgery. The Mavericks played coy during Parsons' recovery and it was only during the middle of the summer we found out Parsons had a form of hybrid microfracture surgery. It reportedly wasn't as bad as the real deal, but it was still a troubling surgery nonetheless.
It was the second knee injury that killed the max in the end, as Parsons once again missed the Mavericks playoff run, once again breaking down at the end of the season when he was seemingly pushing through to greater things. Reports have leaked out that Cuban has always been Parsons biggest supporter (duh) and that these two surgeries cracked the door open a bit more for his non-believers (Carlisle) to sway Cuban away from Parsons. It also perhaps shines a light on how Dirk Nowitzki feels about Parsons, because I would hope the Mavericks at least floated the idea to him before making this decision.
If Parsons never gets hurt this year, I doubt Carlisle has the ammunition he needs to change Cuban's mind. Combine that with the Mavericks medical training staff, which has an almost perfect record when dealing with injured players, and it's understandable. If they're not convinced that Parsons isn't injury prone, then perhaps we're in no position to question them.
It sucks. The euphoria of Parsons signing back in 2014 was probably the best moment of the post-title era for Mavs fans and the team itself. DeAndre Jordan debacle or not, Parsons was an under-30 player with immense talent and feel for the game that players his size simply don't possess. The road that's been taken to get to this point is sad and while the Mavericks clearly have their reasons for doing it, they're running out of time and faith from a fan base tired of disappointments.