It’s a luxury the Mavs had due to Dirk Nowitzki’s hometown discount deal. It was a requirement to prevent the Houston Rockets from exercising their right to match the Mavs’ offer to the restricted free agent.
But based purely on Parsons’ production so far in his career, he’ll be significantly overpaid while making $46 million over the next three seasons. The Mavs aren’t paying Parsons for his production in Houston, though. They bid big based on the belief that Parsons will blossom in Dallas.
“We think he can take his game to a whole 'nother level,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said recently.
There’s sound reason for such optimism. Parsons, who turns 26 in October, improved his scoring, rebounding and assists total in each of his three seasons in Houston. He averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a complementary piece last season, and the Mavs anticipate that his production will spike as a featured attraction in Dallas.
Call it the James Harden phenomenon. After the Rockets star downplayed the impact of Parsons’ departure, essentially labeling him a role player, Parsons noted that Harden of all people should understand how much room for growth he gained by changing teams. After all, Harden’s numbers soared when he left Oklahoma City for Houston, jumping from 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists as the third option in 2011-12 to 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists as the go-to guy the next season.
Parsons isn’t going to be the clear-cut go-to guy in a starting lineup that includes Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, but he’ll have the ball in his hands and the offense run through him much more often than he did with the Rockets.
“I think he’ll be far better,” Cuban said. “I think he’ll have the opportunity to showcase a lot more of his talent. He’s a good passer, he can drive the ball, he was top two or three in terms of finishing using floaters at the bucket. He doesn’t get to the foul line enough, but that’s something we’re going to work on with him.”
The Mavs consider coaching a major key to Parsons’ potential for improvement. They’re counting on Rick Carlisle, one of the NBA’s elite coaches, to schematically put Parsons in positions to utilize his talent and to help him enhance his skills.
The Mavs think their up-tempo, movement-based offense perfectly fits Parsons. Carlisle plans to work with Parsons on footwork and 1-on-1 concepts to make him a more effective scorer in late-shot-clock situations. And Carlisle will certainly push Parsons, who has bulked up to almost 240 pounds, to be a better defender.
“I think defensively I can get much better,” Parsons said during a recent appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “The Afternoon Show.” “I think I can guard pretty much one through four. You have the luxury of switching pick-and-rolls with me. I'm 6-9, 6-10; I can really use my length on smaller guys. I’ve just got to be locked in out there for as long as I’m out there. I can really cause havoc on the defensive end.
“Offensively, I just want be able to do it all. I want to continue to be one of the more versatile players in the league and knock down shots and facilitate and play-make and just make the game easier for others. I think the sky's the limit, and I haven't even scratched the surface of how good I can be.”