The Dallas Mavericks have been hovering in a state of limbo since winning the 2011 NBA championship. The front office missed out on big names like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams in recent offseasons, but is it possible Chandler Parsons will be the complementary cog who can vault Dallas back into contention?
The University of Florida product will be changing cities after the Houston Rockets opted not to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet extended to the restricted free agent by Dallas, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman.
Houston instead decided to bring in veteran swingman Trevor Ariza on a four-year, $32 million deal, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.
The contract struck between Parsons and the Mavs prompted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to say the following, per CSNHouston.com’s Adam Wexler:
Did Morey intend for that statement to be taken as a dig or a compliment?
Oddly, my guess is it’s a little bit of both. He calls the Mavericks organization “smart” for pushing his franchise into a corner—even coming across as somewhat bitter. Of course, he also deems the contract the “most untradeable” he’s ever seen. That implies Parsons won’t live up to it or justify another team wanting to take on that money.
Sure, the contract can certainly be viewed as an overpay. Parsons will be netting approximately $15 million per year. Still, the monetary figure was necessary to pry a rising young talent away from a Western Conference contender and division rival.
The only question remaining is whether the Mavericks have enough pieces for a deep postseason run.
Small Forward Production
Entering the summer festivities, it was clear the Mavs sorely needed an upgrade at the small forward spot.
According to 82games.com, Dallas’ player efficiency rating at the 3 was a measly 13.2—the lowest PER of any position on the roster by a full point.
Parsons is an instant offensive upgrade as a three-point threat and solid all-around scorer. He ranked 23rd in the league with 5.1 offensive win shares, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He also posted an above-average PER of 15.9.
The biggest objective concern with bringing in Parsons is his reputation as a below-average defender.
Unrestricted free agent Shawn Marion, meanwhile, carved a niche within the Association on the less-glamorous end of the court. He has unquestioned status as an elite defender who also has a rare skill set that enables him to guard multiple positions.
Frankly, that moniker has been overblown at this point in his illustrious career.
During the 2013-14 campaign, The Matrix surrendered an opponent 48-minute PER of 17.1 as a small forward, 18.4 at power forward and an alarmingly ineffective 29.8 in limited minutes at center, per 82games. His own production was lower than what his defensive matchup posted across the board.
Comparatively, Parsons held opposing small forwards to a 48-minute PER of 14.6—much better than Marion’s.
You have to take those stats with a grain of salt, because Parsons was playing in front of a defensive beast named Dwight Howard. Marion played with a lackluster defender in Nowitzki and a reputable one in Samuel Dalembert. But the latter only notched 20.2 minutes per contest.
Parsons may not be a clear-cut better defender than a 36-year-old Marion, but he has youth in his corner. The defense certainly won’t suffer with the new upgrade. That’s especially true when you consider that Parsons, at the very least, can outperform his defensive assignment. In this case, his best defense is a good offense.
Throw in the underrated addition of veteran forward Richard Jefferson, who will sign a one-year deal according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. The University of Arizona product inexplicably started 78 games (playing all 82) under head coach Tyrone Corbin a season ago.
With Dallas’ track record of refurbishing past-their-prime veterans—Vince Carter and Jason Kidd—the Jefferson addition to back up Parsons could prove timely.
The 34-year-old drained 40.9 percent of his treys with the Utah Jazz in 2013-14.
Similarities to 2011?
One factor that can’t be understated when building around Nowitzki is that the 2010-11 title team didn’t have a bona fide No. 2 option beside him.
Jason Terry was still a rock-solid sixth man at that point, but he was also 33 years old and not adept on the defensive end. Aside from JET and Marion contributing double-digit points throughout the postseason, Dallas relied heavily on a 37-year-old Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic (on his last legs) and the defensive prowess of Tyson Chandler.
The latter contribution was arguably the biggest reason for the Mavs’ success aside from Dirk’s MVP-caliber play. Now, the former Defensive Player of the Year will return to his old stomping grounds thanks to a trade with the New York Knicks.
The 31-year-old skyscraper already showed he could complement Nowitzki as a defensive anchor. As long as he stays relatively healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t fill that niche again.
Of course, Nowitzki remains the biggest X-factor for long-term glory. He clearly won’t be in the MVP conversation again, but fans are left wondering if they’ll get 2013-14 regular-season Dirk or postseason Dirk.
His lackluster performance against the San Antonio Spurs during the first round—in which he shot 42.9 percent from the field and a disastrous 8.3 percent from beyond the arc—seemed to show that he’s no longer an elite force to be reckoned with.
Of course, even with those struggles, the Mavs managed to put a scare into the eventual champion Spurs.
The 7-foot German posted averages of 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while flirting with the heralded 50-40-90 season throughout an 82-game grind. Those stats are remarkably similar to the Dirk of two and three years ago, so it’s clear he has plenty left in the tank.
If above-average role players surround him—in this case, Chandler and the freshly signed Parsons—do the Mavericks have a shot at escaping the loaded Western Conference?
That all depends on team chemistry and point guard play—where questions remain—but don’t count out this dark-horse contender with head coach Rick Carlisle at the helm.
Compiling upgrades around Nowitzki—who remains an elite talent despite his age—was the blueprint entering the offseason.
Whiffing on top-tier free agents was a disappointment, but was reeling one in entirely necessary?
The Mavs are one of the few organizations in the league that made a winning formula possible without multiple superstars on board. Nowitzki is older now, but he’s still playing to his strengths and may put a poor 2014 postseason performance behind him as an anomaly.
Parsons is a huge addition. He’ll shore up a position on the Mavs roster that hemorrhaged the most production a year ago, mainly because he can complement Monta Ellis. The incumbent 2-guard is a slasher who thrives when driving to the bucket and kicking the ball out to shooters.
Parsons shot 45.7 percent on threes taken from the right corner last season, according to NBA.com. That isn't his only strength, but it's a good starting point for Coach Carlisle when building a new offense.
Also, since he’s only 25 years old, there’s a chance he could show improvement by adding new skills to his repertoire.
As The Dallas Morning News’ Kevin Sherrington wrote, “Given the additions of Parsons, Tyson Chandler and Richard Jefferson and the subtraction of Vince Carter and probably Shawn Marion, too, they should score and defend the rim much better, even if they aren’t as good defensively on the perimeter.”
A starting five of Devin Harris/Raymond Felton, Monta Ellis, Parsons, Nowitzki and Chandler has enormous offensive potential. Heck, it may even surprise folks as a defensive unit.
The NBA’s wild west is still owned by the Spurs, but another team in Texas is hungrily eyeing that position.