This is another installment of Court Changes—a summer breakdown of trades and free-agency signings. The series will get into the motivations behind the moves and how these transactions will affect teams’ trajectories. All opinions are those of the writer.
Chandler Parsons signed a three-year, $46 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks made this signing because: the powder is no longer dry.
Ever since Dirk Nowitzki finally showed emotion when he hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy above his head, he’s been waiting to have a “big fish” as a teammate. Mark Cuban and president Donnie Nelson have been waiting as well, not settling for anything less.
Plan “powder dry,” a phrase Donnie Nelson once coined, was put in place to avoid the luxury tax while waiting for an elite player to bring his talents to Dallas. So, the Mavs begrudgingly let the core of their championship squad (mainly Tyson Chandler) walk without offering a legitimately competitive contract.
With the open cap space, the Mavs swung for the fences and whiffed on both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Instead, Cuban settled on a multitude of short-term contracts and saw the likes of Delonte West, Darren Collison, OJ Mayo and Chris Kaman stay only one season with the team. He did this in order to keep his cap space open for the “big fish” of each summer’s free agency. The Mavs did give both Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis multi-year deals last offseason, but with Dirk’s hefty contract coming off the books, another chase seemed likely.
And that’s exactly what Mark did, bringing Melo into his home and traveling to Cleveland to make a pitch to LeBron’s agent. Unfortunately for the Shark Tank star, Cuban had no way of matching what the Knicks and Cavs had to offer: Money and home.
Rather than “lather, rinse, repeat” with the frequently used “powder dry,” Cuban decided to take a different route. The aggressive route. Already bringing back the team’s championship center earlier in the offseason, the Mavs’ front office knew it was time to build a core ready to give Dirk another chance at a title this season.
Rockets’ restricted free agent Chandler Parsons quickly became the next target for Dallas, and by the time the NBA’s moratorium was lifted on July 10, Cuban and Parsons agreed on a deal and were clubbing in Orlando. This is the exact type of contract Cuban wouldn’t have offered the past two offseasons since CP is a tier or two under the superstars of the League.
But Cuban is showing he’s ready to quit his frugal ways and build a contender. (He can also thank both Dirk and Devin Harris for taking discounts and allowing such a pricy offer to be made in the first place.)
This is good for the Mavs because: Parsons provides valuable versatility now and later.
No longer is the NBA a league filled with athletes playing one definite position.
Versatility has become the new hot commodity. If a player is a “stretch 4” or can “guard all five positions,” he almost instantly has a leg up on his competition.
Just look at the versatility of the Heat and Spurs the past two years. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stopped using positions to designate his players and implemented an unconventional “position-less” structure. Recently re-signed Spur Boris Diaw ended up being a key X-factor in taking down the Heat in the Finals, and he is considered to be one of the most versatile point forwards in the League.
The Mavs saw the positive results of their own offensive versatility in Monta Ellis and knew they needed to acquire more in some way. Parsons comes in to replace small forward Shawn Marion in the starting lineup and, as Ellis recently pointed out, actually resembles a younger Marion.
Last season, the former Florida Gator averaged 16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 4.0 apg for a team that already had James Harden and Dwight Howard demanding the ball.
Parsons has increased in each of these categories in each of his first three NBA seasons, and the Mavs expect that trend to continue with a bump in his usage rate. (Harden and Howard had a combined usage rate of 48.8 last year. Parson had a rate of 18.6, right behind Anthony Bennett.)
Out of all the Mavs’ main free-agent targets, Parsons actually isn’t the best at any one skill. Luol Deng defends better, Trevor Ariza shoots better and Lance Stephenson penetrates better. What Parsons has is the ever so coveted versatility.
Only four players in the NBA averaged at least 16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 4.0 apg while shooting at least 45.0 percent last season. James, Durant, Love and yes, Parsons.
Whatever role Carlisle envisions for Parsons is one he can rapidly settle into. He has an ability to do a little bit of everything effectively and still might not be in the prime of his career (he turns 26 on October 25).
This is dangerous for the Mavs because: there are few alternatives if this pairing doesn’t work out.
There is a reason Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is now copying Cuban and Nellie’s “powder dry” approach and waiting to create a Big Three in Houston. (Isn’t this churning Mavs-Rockets front office rivalry fun?)
When it comes to prying restricted free agents away from their home teams, other teams are forced to go above market value. Parsons should be earning about as much money as Ariza, Deng and Pierce are, but all of those players were unrestricted.
Cuban decided to call the Rockets’ bluff in the most audacious way possible. Not only did Cuban overpay for Parsons, he also included a player option in Year 3 and a massive 15 percent trade kicker, or “trade bonus.” What this means is if Parsons ends up not working out and a trade is the only solution, the Mavs would still pay 15 percent of Parsons’ salary after a trade. Ouch.
So for the next two or three years—it’s up to Parsons how long—CP has little to no tradability. That’s a risk the Mavs are willing to take.
The Mavs front office should thank Chris Bosh because: none of this would have been possible without the Dallas native.
Even though the Rockets would have been taking just as much of a risk if they had matched, all signs pointed to the small forward staying, under one condition: Chris Bosh.
Relentless, analytical and daring are three words that accurately describe Daryl Morey. The new-age GM successfully traded for James Harden and signed Dwight Howard in consecutive offseasons and received praise across the League for his wizardry.
This offseason, he had his sights keenly set on one versatile big man. If LeBron James left Miami, Morey planned on bringing in Bosh on a max contract and then matching Parsons’ offer sheet, since the Rockets had his full bird rights. This would allow Morey to exceed the salary cap to bring Parsons back and create a deadly starting lineup ready for the Championship.
But Morey’s detailed calculations couldn’t account for Bosh’s desire to stay in a place he now considers his new home. (His numbers also couldn’t make Bosh one of the richest players in the NBA as the Heat did with a five-year, $118 million contract.)
Without the ability to implement Bosh into a new Big Three, Morey couldn’t bring himself to commit to Parsons and take his team out of the running for the next wave of star free agents. Otherwise, if Bosh had chosen to play alongside Howard, the Rockets would have undoubtedly forced Parsons to stick it out in Houston.
Thank the Lincoln High School graduate, Dallas.
This signing will have a significant impact on the Mavericks because: they now have one of the most potent starting lineups with a coach who gets the most out of his bench.
The Mavs are clearly on the rise after being closer than anyone else to taking the reigning NBA Champions to the brink of elimination. They found a level of chemistry that has been nonexistent since their 2011 Championship run. Ellis, previously notorious for his chucking capability, learned from his head coach and simplified his game into drives, drives and more drives. Dirk, well, is still Dirk.
The starting lineup seemed to have looming issues, though, as the Matrix had lost a step and Dalembert wasn’t reliable from game to game. If the Mavs wanted to build upon their recent success, they needed to fix those holes.
Enter the Chandlers. The Mavs have significantly improved their starting lineup, providing Carlisle with an abundance of options on the offensive end of the floor. Even though he still has some work to do on the defensive end, Carlisle has a center ready to bang down low and a wing excited to take on larger responsibilities.
Due to the insertion of the Chandlers, Dallas has lost many of its key contributors (Jose Calderon and Vince Carter) and might lose more (DeJuan Blair and Shawn Marion) by the start of the season.
Luckily for the Mavs, they have a coach who has made a living out of getting the most out of his players. Since he arrived in Dallas, Carlisle’s teams have always been at the top of the League in bench scoring and have successfully featured revitalized veterans.
The Mavs needed Chandler Parsons so they could move on past their previously failed free-agency signings. They needed a win. They achieved victory over their in-state rival and now have a roster with the potential to give the Big German one more shot at a title.
HELLLLLLLLLO DALLAS #MFFL
— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) July 13, 2014
Previously in 2013-14 offseason:
Court Changes: Pau Gasol Heads to Chi-Town
Court Changes: Return of the King
Court Changes: Tyson Returns to Big D