One year after serving as the Dallas Mavericks' unofficial recruiting coordinator, forward Chandler Parsons looks forward to being recruited by other franchises.
Parsons eagerly anticipates exploring his options in free agency as the Mavericks plan to prioritize other targets, sources told ESPN, although a return to Dallas remains a possibility.
"He'll be all ears," one source said.
With the salary cap spiking to a projected $94 million, giving the majority of NBA teams the salary-cap space to sign a free agent to a maximum deal, sources say Parsons' camp remains confident that he will command a max contract with a starting annual salary of $22 million.
Dallas' Plan A this summer -- aside from the pipe dream of persuadingKevin Durant to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for a team the Western Conference finalists dismissed in five games in the first round -- is to sign Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley and Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside.
If the Mavs are successful, assuming Conley and Whiteside get max contracts as widely expected, they would not have the cap space required to keep Parsons. Dallas is willing to take the risk of Parsons committing to another team as the Mavs pursue Conley and Whiteside, who sources say have mutual interest in the team. The Mavs expect to open free agency by meeting with Whiteside.
The Mavs, according to sources, remain interested in keeping Parsons if they aren't able to persuade Conley and/or Whiteside to come to Dallas. However, the Mavs have made it clear to Parsons that they do not intend to offer him a max contract to keep him after his first two seasons in Dallas ended prematurely because of surgeries on his right knee.
A max contract for Parsons with the Mavs, who own his early Bird rights, would be worth $98.4 million over four years. Other teams can offer him $94.1 million over four years.
"It's a question of dollars and injury status," Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said when asked about the possibility of re-signing Parsons during exit interviews before the Mavs had homed in on Conley and Whiteside.
Parsons, 27, had hybrid microfracture surgery on the knee in spring of 2015, and the rehab from that operation lasted well into the 2015-16 season. The arthroscopic operation Parsons underwent this spring to address a torn meniscus in the knee wasn't nearly as serious as the previous surgery.
Sources say multiple renowned orthopedic specialists have given Parsons clearance to resume full basketball activities and expressed optimism that his knee would not prevent him from having a long, productive NBA career.
Parsons averaged 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 61 games last seasons, statistics skewed by a slow start as he dealt with strict minutes restrictions. He had the best statistical stretch of his five-year career in the two months before his season ended, averaging 18.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the floor and 47.7 percent from 3-point range and proving he could thrive at power forward in addition to small forward.
The Mavs have showed flexibility in the recent past during negotiations. Their three most high-profile free-agent acquisitions of the past five years -- Parsons and guards Wesley Matthews and Monta Ellis -- all signed for significantly more money than the Mavs offered at the start of negotiations.
Sources said Mavs owner Mark Cuban attempted to persuade Parsons this month to opt in for the final season of the three-year, $46 million deal the forward signed in the summer of 2014, when the Houston Rockets declined to match the offer to keep him as a restricted free agent. Parsons, the sources say, never seriously considered staying in Dallas for the $16 million salary, certain that he'd land a long-term deal with a large raise in free agency.
The Mavs see Justin Anderson as a potential starter at small forward if Parsons leaves, according to team sources. Anderson, the 21st overall pick in last year's draft, played sparingly for most of his rookie season but showed promise as a high-energy role player when Parsons' late-season absence pushed him into a larger role.
The Mavs have identified Orlando Magic restricted free agent Evan Fournier and unrestricted free agents Kent Bazemore, Evan Turner and Marvin Williams as possible replacements for Parsons if they have cap space to spend on a small forward, according to a source.
Sources: Chandler Parsons 'all ears' as Mavs prioritize other free-agent targets