Mar 16, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (25) reacts during the first half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Chandler Parsons may have been destined to leave. It may have been a no-win situation, but that doesn’t mean that the Houston Rockets played this one right.
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey chose not to exercise a $1 million option that could have kept Parsons in a Rockets uniform for the 2014-15 season. Had he chosen to pursue that route, Parsons would have become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He would have come with a much heftier price tag, and if paid that contract, expected to perform as a strong third-fiddle.
Parsons cannot receive $15-plus million and produce 15 points per game. That’s league-average kind of stuff, and it isn’t worthy of that type of contract. If he continues to produce at replacement-level for an NBA starter (see: PER of 15), Mavs fans will not be pleased with Mark Cuban and Dallas’ decision.
There is also the fact that Parsons was well aware he had been underpaid for his three seasons in Houston. It’s part of the territory for a second round pick that they may be locked in for three years, three non-lucrative years that in Parsons case brought him right up to his NBA prime (since he entered the league as a four year collegiate star). With Parsons now 26, it figures that his best seasons are going to now come in a Dallas Mavericks uniform.
There’s a real issue, though, because losing Parsons also negates a lot of leverage Morey could could have had at the NBA trade deadline in February. With a contract of just $1 million, teams would have been blowing up Morey’s phone for an opportunity to snag a bargain.
Even if Parsons didn’t give assurance of re-signing with the team he was traded to, it is a low-risk investment for a contending team to add a player whose presence could make a difference in playoff run. Even bottom feeders may have bit on Parsons in an attempt to win him over and hope he re-signs with the franchise with promise of being a featured part of it.
Or, alternatively, that team could have been the Rockets. While a case can be made that the team is still in the midst of contention (and it is), Morey seems to have mishandled this in his pursuit of the top tier free agents (in particular Chris Bosh). Now, having struck out in free agency, Morey has to decide how he is going to spend the remaining cap money the Rockets have.
Trevor Ariza may adequately fill all the roles that Parsons occupied within the offense, but he comes with none of the upside of Parsons. Ariza is approaching 30 years of age, and he’s pretty much shown what he’s capable of as an NBA player. While his second stint as a Rocket should be far more productive than his first, it will be with a slightly different role. Ariza had a lot more ball handling duties in 2009-10 than he will have this season with James Harden to do most of the ball handling and playmaking.
In 2009-10, Ariza averaged 3.8 assists per game while attempting 13.7 shots per game, which is roughly the same shots Parsons attempted last year (13.3). However, his efficiency has improved over the last two seasons, in particular last year with the Washington Wizards: Ariza shot 45.6 percent from the floor and 40.7 percent from behind the arc.
Comparatively, Parsons shot 47.2 percent from the field and just 37 percent from behind the arc. The production is nearly the same, but many Rockets’ detractors continue to berate the Rockets for losing Parsons and replacing him with the much more affordable Ariza ($8 million vs. $15 million). Many expect the team to decline this season.
Apr 23, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (25) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Trail Blazers defeated the Rockets 112-105. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
But it isn’t really about replacing production, necessarily. It’s about the trade chip Parsons could have been. And it’s also about the wild thing we call the free agency market. Typically when a team has a player produce at a high level, management feels compelled to pay the man. Such was the case with another restricted free agent, Gordon Hayward.
Hayward received a lucrative offer from the Charlotte Hornets, but the Jazz knew what Hayward was capable of—or more to the point, what he will be as an NBA player. After the bar was set at $63 million over four seasons for Hayward, Morey knew he was in trouble.
Perhaps Morey figured Parsons has already peaked, and that he won’t be worth the contract the Mavs signed him too. And time will tell if he’s right. That said, even if he is, the hand could have been far better played. In swinging for the fences and Chris Bosh, Morey miscalculated a decision that could have allowed the Rockets to stock up. Having Parsons and Trevor Ariza at the 3 would have been redundant; but hey, that’s why teams trade.