Enough Debate, Chandler Parsons is Worthy of a Max Deal and the Mavs Should Give it to Him

Mar 1, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons (25) looks to the bench during the second quarter against the Orlando Magic at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons (25) looks to the bench during the second quarter against the Orlando Magic at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Chandler Parsons has played all-star level basketball for the last few months, but the fanbase doesn’t seem to be sold on the Dallas Mavericks offering him a max deal this summer.

Chandler Parsons took a lot of flak from fans and media members early on this season. As he made his return from offseason knee surgery, Parsons struggled to regain his legs and live up to the expectations many had for him in 2015-16.

In his first 30 games, Parsons looked nothing like the future face of the franchise the base had been promised. 9.1 points on 43.7% shooting from the floor and 30.8% accuracy from downtown is not $15 million worth. So it’s easy to understand the criticism, especially as the Mavericks continued to compete admirably almost in spite of their second-highest paid player.

Here at The Smoking Cuban we cracked jokes on podcasts and wondered aloud if Parsons would ever be the player the front office predicted, or even get back to his pre-injury form. When the word microfracture starts being used…

Looking back, it wasn’t all that fair to Parsons – an observation made easier with his strong play over the last few months. His procedure was a serious one, the results of which had the 27-year old so in a funk that he couldn’t even hit free throws (55% over his first 30 games).

Still, even as Parsons has averaged 18.7 points (53.1/48.7/73.6%), 5.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game over the second half of his season, there are those in the fanbase that don’t see him as worthy of a max contract this summer when he opts out of the final year of his contract. As if 6’10” guys with athleticism, ball skills, and 40% accuracy from three-point range grow on trees. As if the Mavericks have a history of luring big name free agents to join the franchise.

Even more asinine are the suggested replacements. But Kevin Durant and LeBron James will be free agents! Not happening, moving on. Nicolas Batum has played well in Charlotte, how about him for 75 cents on the Chandler Parsons dollar? Really? Is anyone ready to gamble on getting Batum for a little less than Parsons with the risk of ending up with neither?

According to my Twitter research, the most popular potential Parsons replacement seems to be Harrison Barnes of the Golden State Warriors, and while I see the allure, declaring the 23-year old a max player and not Parsons is flawed thinking.

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Yes, he’s younger. And yes, he’s “stuck” as a third or even fourth option for the saturated Golden State offense. We don’t really know what type of numbers Barnes could put up with 15 shots a game. But I can’t for the life of me understand why fans of a team that has gambled and lost on so many occasions would be so eager to do it again in Dirk Nowitzki‘s waning moments.

Because while the possibility exists that Barnes could make a James Harden-like jump in a primary role with a new team, there’s a good chance he won’t. He’s disappointed before, coming out of high school as the number one prospect and the best thing since sliced bread.

Don’t get me wrong, Barnes had a solid two years in Chapel Hill and hit some really big shots. But it is fair to say he didn’t live up to the lofty expectations. Barnes failed to make the AP All-American team in both seasons despite being on the pre-season team twice, and shot 33% in UNC’s 2012 NCAA tournament appearance. Drudging up past “failures” doesn’t mean he’s destined to disappoint again at this level, but there’s a legitimate concern that he just isn’t suited to be “that guy” for a franchise. Parsons might not be either, but there’s less of a risk involved and in my opinion Parsons is easier to build around.

And if we look into the numbers a little bit there is more cause for concern. Let’s start with the obvious. In today’s space-’em-out NBA, there is an emphasis on having playmaking ability at just about every position. Unless you’re a center, and especially if you’re a perimeter player, you really have to have at least some ability to put the ball on the floor to create offense for yourself or others to be considered a truly complete offensive player. Barnes’ teammate Draymond Green is the perfect example of the advantage of having forwards capable of doing just that (and how lucrative it can be).

Parsons has shown that ability from his first season in the league and is currently 10th in assists at his position despite the minute restrictions and rocky play early on. Barnes hasn’t shown much improvement with his ball handling or distribution since being drafted. There are reasons Golden State has run fewer pick-and-rolls with Barnes as the handler than Memphis has run with Tony Allen, and they don’t all involve the other players around him. A max contract for a guy who can’t really run the pick-and-roll?

And the notion that Barnes will morph into a 20-point scorer as the focal point of an offense isn’t one I’m buying into. Sure, more looks will probably lead to an uptick in point production, but Barnes benefits from playing with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as much as he is hindered. And he isn’t really taking advantage.

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57.8% of Barnes’ attempts this season have been classified by the NBA as “open” (nearest defender 4-6 feet away) or “wide open” (6+ feet). It’s a luxury that comes with playing on such a talented team (41.5% of Parsons’ shots are against “tight” defense). But he’s knocking down less than 30% of his “open” three-pointers while Parsons is over 40% on his.

In fact, almost any way you look at it, Parsons is the better shooter. Parsons has hit 44.5% of his catch and shoot three-pointers to Barnes’ 38.4%, and 58.3% of his shots inside 10-feet compared to 52.1%. Barnes’ .519 True Shooting % this season is just slightly above Parsons’ career-low from his rookie season. Across the board Barnes is actually about as efficient a shooter as Andre Iguodala, a player not exactly known for his shooting before joining the Warriors.

Now, I did say almost. Barnes is the superior mid-range shooter to Parsons this season by a fair margin. But that’s not necessarily a huge advantage. Probably the most recognizable aspect of the analytics revolution is the emphasis on shot selection. Teams are looking for the most “valuable” shots, i.e., three-pointers and shots near the basket. This seems to be right up Parsons’ alley, as a whopping 70.5% of his attempts come either in the restricted area, or behind the three-point line.

And of course, this union depends on more than just an agreement with Barnes this summer – anything but a certainty in its own right. He’s a restricted free agent, and while the Warriors will probably have to make some tough financial decisions and aren’t super excited about matching a max offer sheet, it’s possible they do. One thing is for sure, though – Parsons won’t be waiting around to find out because he’ll have max offers of his own from several teams.

I like Barnes. Anybody with the Jerry West seal of approval would be a solid addition. This really wasn’t supposed to be about him. But to say he’s worth max money and Parsons is not doesn’t make much sense, and it’s a tough sell to say he’d be an upgrade.

Perhaps this isn’t as much of a debate as my very scientific Twitter research would suggest. But to those on the other side of my argument, be careful what you wish for. Because at this point, fans should be more concerned about whether Parsons walks than if he’s worth max money.