According to Yahoo! Sports, the Houston Rockets have reportedly made the somewhat surprising decision to make Chandler Parsons a restricted free agent this summer.
Yahoo Sources: Rockets plan to decline Chandler Parsons' option, freeing him to become a restricted free agent. http://t.co/vlPqxtI9iG— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 4, 2014
The Rockets were faced with an interesting dilemma with Parsons, though one that gave them all the options. They could have exercised his $960,000 option for next season, and continued to prosper from their decision to select him in the second round and wise decision to sign him to a four year deal. That choice would have left Parsons free to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The other option involved declining his one year option, but offering him a qualifying offer and making him a restricted free agent, a situation in which Houston will be able to match any offer that Parsons ultimately decides to sign this summer. The downside of this is simple. Say that Parsons signs a four year, $48 million extension this summer, and the Rockets match the offer and keep him in a Rockets uniform. Instead of making a measly $960,000, Parsons take home pay (and cap hit) will be over $12 million (based on the structure of the deal).
The benefits, though, are a bit more varied in complexity. First, if the Rockets reach an agreement with Parsons for four years, or match a deal he makes with another team for four years, that's an extra three years they can count on a guy who has been incredibly valuable for them. Second, it might make Parsons happy that he gets to skip a year of making under $1 million, with all the risks of injury that would await him next season; it's pretty clear Parsons will in fact get offered a four year deal.
But it also affects other teams. If the Rockets had merely picked up the option, Parsons still would have been available via trade. How appetizing would that have been, though, given that he would be an unrestricted free agent at year end? Now, a team that trades for him can either work out an extension with Parsons before dealing for him, or get the full rights of restricted free agency. It's unlikely Parsons takes what is likely to be a $2.7 million qualifying offer when teams are offering him four year deals that likely end up being worth more than $40 million.
So before we get to the Cleveland aspect of this, let's take a look at what Houston's game is going to be here. Some of this is speculation, of course. But according to Wojnaroski:
Houston plans to pursue the major stars who could be available upon opting out of deals, including Miami's LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and New York's Carmelo Anthony, league sources said. Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki is expected to be a target too.
The Rockets are pursuing Minnesota's Kevin Love in trade talks too, and Parsons could hold sign-and-trade possibilities.
Okay, so the Rockets are thinking big. And Parsons might be part of their long-term plans while they think big. The Rockets are probably going to try and add a big free agent while keeping Chandler Parsons. This would mean moving Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. But let's say they strike out in free agency, or just decide Kevin Love is the one they want to pursue. They have all of their future picks (though it's the 25th pick in this year's draft, and they aren't likely to be great moving forward with James Harden and Dwight Howard locked up), Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverley, and Chandler Parsons who are all pretty appealing. Maybe that's enough to swing Kevin Love.
Do the Cavaliers have a shot at Parsons?
First, should the Cavaliers be interested in the first place? The short answer is yes. Alonzo Gee, Carrick Felix, and Sergey Karasev are the only options at small forward the Cavs currently have under contract, and I don't anticipate that Gee's non-guaranteed contract actually gets picked up. Chandler Parsons is a pretty darn good one.
Jacob Rosen at Waiting For Next Year has a piece coming later today that breaks down free agent wings available, so I'll let him do most of the work. But suffice it to say that Parsons has averaged 16 points per game on 47.9% shooting, 37.8% from three point range, with 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists sprinkled in over the last two seasons. He doesn't have a high usage rate, is a capable passer, defends a bit, avoids midrange jumpers like the plague (Houston, of course, does everything they can to avoid them in general), and is generally a very capable third scoring option. He turns 26 during the 2014-15 season and has excellent height and length. The Cavs should want him.
What would it take, though? There are three options, best as I can tell. They can sign him to a deal and hope the Rockets don't match. They can do a straight trade for him. They can help the Rockets facilitate a three or four team deal that gets the Rockets their third star to pair with Harden and Howard, and in the process bring Parsons to the Wine & Gold.
Offer him a huge deal, and then play chicken
and pray Houston doesn't match. Let's stipulate that the Rockets didn't pass up a year of Chandler Parsons for $960,000 for the purpose of letting him walk away for free. That would be a disaster for them. So the Cavs would have to find a way to hit Houston where it hurts. Offer him enough money that it becomes both untenable for Houston to match as they try and save cap space for a third star, which Parsons is not, and that Parsons' value as a trade asset is so diminished that Houston doesn't have the incentive to match, and thus keep open the possibility of moving him later.
Which brings us to option two. Let's say the Cavs are willing to offer more, perhaps significantly more than any other team. Parsons might decide he wants that money. Houston could determine that with the amount of money Parsons is going to be owed, the assets they get back in a trade from teams other than the Cavaliers makes a sign and trade with Cleveland the best option.
How would this look? The Cavs offer Chandler Parsons $13 million per year over the next four years. Hell, let's make it $14 million annually for four years. Houston could simply match and try and trade him to another team to free up cap space or bring in a Kevin Love type player. But maybe Minnesota doesn't want to pay that contract. Houston doesn't see Parsons as a great asset anymore. Houston tells the Cavs, alright, you want him that bad, we are going to match but let's work out a swap. Houston gets something like Anderson Varejao, and a future first or player like Karasev, Zeller or maybe even Bennett, the Cavs get the right to pay Parsons a ton of money.
Is it worth it? I don't know. Maybe not. Probably not. Just looking at ways to get him here. Maybe it doesn't take that much money. Maybe if he makes that much money it wouldn't take the Cavs major assets to pry him away. Tyreke Evans was a restricted free agent last summer in the same situation for the Kings. The Kings, Pelicans, and Blazers completed a three team deal, and Evans got four years and $44 million. The Pelicans gave up Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez for their troubles. That's not chump change, and Robin Lopez, at minimum, is a pretty valuable player.
The Cavs would probably have to give up more money to Parsons, and perhaps more valuable assets as well.
The other way to get Parsons might come in the form of a major three or four team trade. The easiest deal to imagine is one involving Kevin Love going to the Rockets. Let's say the Timberwolves decide to kickstart their rebuild. They want to shed bad contracts (J.J. Barea, though he is expiring, and Chase Budinger, owed $10 million over the next two seasons), add some draft picks, add some young talent. Could the Cavaliers be party to a trade like this?
Cleveland Cavaliers get: J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Chandler Parsons (who agrees to, say, a four year $48 million deal).
Houston Rockets get: Kevin Love
Minnesota Timberwolves get: Their choice of Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, or Anthony Bennett, Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson's voidable contacts, Terrence Jones, the Rockets 25th overall pick, the Cavaliers' Memphis pick with protections that make it a likely lottery choice, and the Rockets 2017 first.
Does Minnesota "win" this deal? No. The team giving up the best player in the deal usually doesn't. Sorry. The Cavs give up quite a bit and absorb some excess salary. Whether you think it's worth it is up to you.
Note: this doesn't work in the trade machine right now. It involves the Cavaliers absorbing some salary into their cap space. As such, the trade would have to happen after the draft, and after the Cavs have renounced the rights to Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes.
It's still very unlikely that Chandler Parsons is a Cavalier next season. It is, however, more likely than it was last week. Given what the price might be, it might take time to find out if it's a blessing or not.