On the mere surface, the Houston Rockets seem to be on the verge of making a perplexing decision regarding the 2014 NBA offseason. As first reported by Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday, the Rockets are leaning heavily towards declining the option of forward Chandler Parsons, allowing him to enter free agency this summer. Considering how valuable the forward has been for them, declining his option seems like a strange decision at face-value.
However, the deeper story is that Daryl Morey and the rest of the Rockets’ front office is actually playing their hand brilliantly heading into this offseason as they hope to fully join the league’s elite for the 2014-15 NBA season.
In terms of Parsons alone, declining his option actually puts the Rockets in a seemingly more secure position to keep him in Houston. If the organization were to pick up his option for next season, he would become an unrestricted free-agent in the summer of 2015, making him up for grabs on the open market. By declining his option, Parsons then becomes a restricted free-agent, meaning that the Rockets will be able to match any offer that he’s given on the open market. The predominant belief is that they do indeed plan to match any offer he’s given so that they can keep him around.
The bigger plan that this puts into motion, though, also regards free agency, but not Parsons directly. With Parsons off of the books after the team declines his option, the Rockets could potentially clear enough cap-space to sign a big-name player to be the third member of their big three with James Harden and Dwight Howard. Adding a third star has long been in the plans of Morey and company and declining Parsons’ option puts them in position to do just that. Moreover, after adding that third player, they can then go over the cap by matching offers for Parsons in restricted free agency.
Nothing is certain at this point with the Rockets, not even that the team will decline Parsons’ option. They have until June 30 to formally announce what they’ll do with Parsons’ option, but declining it seems to be where the franchise is planning on going towards and is also what sets them up the best for this offseason and, potentially, the future.