The Houston Rockets have had the luxury of paying their starting small forward less than a million dollars for each of his first three seasons, and the team could opt to do the same for the 2014-15 season.
Chandler Parsons has improved each year he’s been in the league. Check out the numbers:
2011-12: 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 45/34/55 (FG/3pt/FT%)
2012-13: 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 49/39/73
2013-14: 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists. 47/37/74
Although Parsons will probably never break into the top tier of small forwards (Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony), he’s already among the second tier of 3’s, which means he’ll command big money in free agency.
Check out the contracts that similar players signed when they hit the open market:
Luol Deng (2008): six years, $71 million
Trevor Ariza (2009): five years, $34 million
Nicolas Batum (2012): four years, $46 million
DeMar DeRozan (2013): four years, $38 million
Andre Iguodala (2013): four years, $48 million
The NBA as a whole has become more diligent in terms of giving out contracts, with teams no longer throwing out long-term, max-level deals to borderline All-Stars (remember when Rashard Lewis was given a six-year, $118 million deal?). The deals that guys like DeRozan and Jeff Teague (four years, $32 million) commanded in free agency are clear examples of general managers becoming savvier with their money (although I bet DeRozan wished he didn’t sign that extension in 2013).
However, it comes down to how much Houston is willing to offer Parsons. If the Rockets pick up Parsons’ $915,000 team option for the 2014-15 season, then Parsons will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015, meaning other teams can sign him to an offer sheet that Houston would have to match to retain him. With so many teams clearing cap room for 2015 (when Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo hit the market), Parsons will almost certainly be offered above-market value by a team that missed out on a max-level guy.
If the Rockets decide to negotiate with Parsons this summer, the team will be in the driver’s seat, as opposed to leaving it up to a handful of desperate suitors. To sign Parsons this summer, the Rockets will need to move Jeremy Lin and/or Omer Asik, who both have a cap number over $8 million for the 2014-15 season.
If there is any validity to the Carmelo Anthony rumor, it seems likely that the Rockets would include Parsons in a sign-and-trade deal with the New York Knicks, although it’s possible that the team chooses to hold onto Parsons and include starting power forward Terrence Jones instead. To me, including Jones would be the ideal situation, but Parsons would have to take below-market value to stay in Houston and chase a ring if the team deals for Melo.
Daryl Morey is one of the most creative and intelligent minds in the NBA, so Rockets fans should have faith that he’ll make the right move. That being said, I don’t envy the decision he’ll have to make.