Breaking Down How Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki Can Thrive Together

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Breaking Down How Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki Can Thrive Together
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After the Houston Rockets refused to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet he signed with Mark Cuban in a nightclub, Chandler Parsons is the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons wasted no time this summer in finding this new situation, and it appears the Mavericks offered Parsons something he didn't feel the Rockets were prepared to give him—a feature role, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

We got a chance to win. Coach [Rick] Carlisle is the best coach in the NBA. It's the perfect situation for me. I'm ready for more leadership. I'm ready for a bigger role. They came at me with a high max offer and viewed me as a franchise player. That's what I wanted.

While Parsons feels like he's ready for a bigger offensive role, he's stepping into a situation where he'll often be asked to play off Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis—not unlike the way he played off Dwight Howard and James Harden last season. While he may find that his role doesn't change as much as he'd like, he's ideally suited for it.

Although Parsons shot 47.2 percent from the field last season, you can see from his shot chart, courtesy of Nylon Calculus, that his areas of offensive efficiency were pretty limited.

NylonCalculus.com

Outside of the paint, Chandler's positive offensive contributions came mostly from the right wing and corner. While this somewhat limited efficient scoring zone may not bode well for his abilities to assume that featured role he's seeking, it's actually a fairly good fit for the pieces around him in Dallas.

Patrick Harrel of SB Nation's The Dream Shake offered his perspective on Chandler's game to sister site Mavs Moneyball:

He's the perfect off-ball player. He can cut to the rim, he can fade out to the three point line and hit at a good mark there, and he's excellent in transition. He has managed to become a serious weapon despite the fact that he still struggles to create his own shot.

Parsons is an excellent passer who fits into nearly every offense you can throw at him, excelling in the pick-and-roll, especially as the roll man, finding open cutters, and making his opponents pay when they go to sleep with cuts of his own. Playing alongside a dominant big in Dirk Nowitzki, he will do very well.

The Mavericks were one of the most active and effective pick-and-roll teams last season, with most of those sets revolving around Nowitzki and a lightning-quick ball-handler. When Nowitzki is in the game, most of the defensive attention in these pick-and-rolls will be paid to him.

NBA.com

You can see from the photo above how that puts pressure on the defense. If Nowitzki hangs at the top of the key or rolls down the lane, the pressure is on Tony Parker, the defender in the corner, to step up and stop the ball. If Nowitzki pops out to the opposite elbow, then Danny Green has to switch out onto him, leaving the other corner open.

In these high pick-and-roll sets, Parsons would be stationed in one of the two corners, probably the right corner to get him more engaged with the action. His responsibility then is to find seams to back cut his man, who will have his eyes on the ball, or be ready to knock down the three-pointer if he's left open. Parsons had plenty of experience with these roles in Houston, and he should be a seamless fit.

In this example against the Los Angeles Lakers, Parsons waits until his defender's attention is on the ball-handler coming off the screen and then makes a looping baseline cut for the alley-oop.

Here he floats a little bit higher on the wing and gets a wide-open three-pointer when his man dives in to help on the drive.

Parsons has an uncanny knack for finding space in between defenders being pulled by his more threatening teammates. This gift doesn't just manifest on pick-and-rolls. His cuts to the basket worked exceptionally well on the weak side of a big man who was posting up (another Nowitzki specialty).

Here he gets out in transition and simply floats around the three-point line until space opens up for him.

Parsons clearly knows how to feast on the opportunities created by his teammates. With Nowitzki and Brandan Wright posting up and running pick-and-rolls with Ellis, there will be plenty of room for him to slip through to the basket or fade for open three-pointers.

But, to this point, we've only looked at the relationship in one direction. Parsons' ability as a cutter and a shooter also makes things easier on his teammates as well, opening opportunities that Nowitzki and others can benefit from.

According to NBA.com's SportVU player tracking statistics, Parsons averaged 6.2 drives per game last season (a drive being defined as any touch that started at least 20 feet from the hoop and was dribbled to within 10 feet). The Rockets averaged 7.7 points per game on his drives—4.4 scored by Parsons, 3.3 by his teammates.

Often his drives were counters, coming off a kick-out and taking advantage of a closing defender. Harden or Howard created the space for Parsons to get the ball, and by attacking he was able to force one more adjustment out of the defense before getting the ball back to Harden or Howard.

Here Howard is setting a baseline screen for Parsons. He is wide open as he curls off the screen, and the scrambling defensive adjustment that ensues allows him to get the ball back to Howard for a layup.

On this play, Parsons is trailing a Harden-Howard pick-and-roll and finds himself with an open driving lane. A step inside the three-point line, he finds Howard for the lob.

Parsons averaged 4.0 assists per game last season and is more than comfortable handling the ball in these kinds of situations where the defense has already been bent out of shape, delivering the knockout blow with a well-timed pass.

It's not surprising, then, that both Howard's and Harden's field-goal percentages were considerably higher when Parsons was on the floor: 59.8 percent to 56.4 percent for Howard, and 46.1 percent to 44.3 percent for Harden.

It seems that there won't be a big adjustment for either party. Many of the things Parsons will be asked to do in the Mavericks offense are the same things he did last year for the Rockets. Shawn Marion admirably filled the same role for Dallas last season; Parsons is just much more effective, particularly as a shooter and a passer.

The point is he will know where he's supposed to be, and his new teammates will know exactly where to find him.

Parsons sees himself as a player ready to take on more offensive responsibility, and the Mavericks may help him get there. But even if he's the same player he was last year, Parsons is the perfect auxiliary to Ellis and Nowitzki. This offense is going to be a powerhouse next season, and I have a feeling that on the court Parsons and Nowitzki will get along famously.

 

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com/Stats.

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