By: mitchell felker
The Parsons Conundrum - This summer Daryl Morey will face maybe the toughest decision he's had to make thus far as general manager of the Houston Rockets. Morey will have to decide if he wants to pick up Parsons' option for the fourth and final year of his rookie deal, which would allow him to be an unrestricted free agent for the summer of 2015, or decline and have Parsons enter free agency this summer as a restricted free agent. Tom Ziller of The Dreamshake:
That $964,000 due in 2014-15 is a team option. If the Rockets pick up that option, Parsons will become an unrestricted free agent in July, 2015. If the Rockets decline the option, Parsons becomes a free agent in July 2014 -- a restricted free agent. That means that the Rockets will be able to match any offer sheet Parsons signs. Teams don't get that luxury with unrestricted free agents. Based on what other players of Parsons' age and scoring output typically get, Parsons can expect to sign something like a four-year, $36-40 million deal.
So here's the question Morey has to answer. Does the risk of potentially losing Parsons in 2015 outweigh the benefit of delaying his payday one year?
There are many factors to take into account with that question. Parsons undeniably has more value in Houston than he would elsewhere. He's a key locker room figure and his game perfectly mirrors the franchise's philosophy. But he also might have already maxed out his potential. Most developing players in the NBA have to learn how to be efficient NBA scorers; Parsons came into the league with that game prepackaged. He avoids the mid-range game completely and typically only take shots at the rim or behind the arc. And since Parsons isn't an elite physical talent, his options for improving are more limited than say, Harrison Barnes. And that's not to say that Barnes is or ever will be a superior player to Parsons, just that he has the physical talent to push into a different stratosphere were he ever to develop Parsons' lethal efficiency. It's why guys like John Wall get huge extensions before they've shown that they're worthy of them; they are signed for the athleticism and the hope that the efficiency will grow. Parsons is the invert of that.
So Parsons' only real options at increasing his worth are to strap down and become an elite defender, construct a post-up game or become an elite outside shooter on the level of someone like Klay Thompson. Any and all of these scenarios are possible, but it could create a gap at the negotiating table. Two players comparable to Parsons, Nicolas Batum and Danillo Galinari, each received 4 year deals worth over 40 million dollars. So how much do you pay a guy who quite possibly might have already peaked as a 24 year old?
And as far as the team option goes, Morey can go the route Ziller proposes and allow Parsons to play out the extent of his rookie contract and enter unrestricted free agency, then pursue him along with the other 29 teams in the league. But if teams complained that Morey allowed Goran Dragic to leave with no compensation, imagine their reaction to a fan-favorite like Parsons leaving for free. Or he can rescind the final year of his deal and hold the right of first refusal, allowing them to match any offer Parsons signs elsewhere. Restricted free agency can be a funny thing, though, as Nikola Pekovic learned this off-season.
Despite being a talented 7-footer, teams were reluctant to sign Pekovic to an offer sheet because it was believed league-wide that Minnesota would match any offer Pekovic signed. So teams did not want to waste several days with their valuable cap space tied up during the free agency period as Minnesota stalled before eventually matching anyway. It probably helped drive the price down on what Pekovic could have gotten in an open market, by allowing Minnesota to eventually come to terms with him on their own. This would be extremely valuable in any Parsons negotiation, so long as the Rockets make it known across the league that resigning him is a top priority. If Houston is hoping to get any kind of a discount on Parsons' next deal, this is definitely the way to go.
Either way, Parsons is going to be well paid. He's been the poster child for value contracts in the NBA for two years now and he knows it. His time is due. There are very serious positives and negatives to either option and Morey has a lot of figuring out to do. But if the Rockets do decide to pick up his option and keep him for that fourth year, it might be an early indicator that they plan to trade him. A player that young and talented on that cheap of a deal, even for just one year, is a rare commodity and would be very attractive to any number of teams. Parsons, some salary-cap filler and a pick or two would be a very enticing package if Morey gets the feeling (or learns this summer) that Parsons has grander aspirations than the Rockets can afford. The deadline for that decision will be a very interesting crossroads for Morey's Rockets.
Seeing is Believing - On the Ultimate Rockets, Jenny Dial Creech has a brief post about the value of passing. It has another quote from passing will set you free Chandler Parsons. But for the first time (as far as I can tell), we get to hear a bit of James Harden's thoughts on the matter.
“I think we had 25 assists in the last game,” Harden said. “It shows that we are playing well together. We are doing a job this far but we have a long way to go and its scary how good we can be.”
Preach it, brother. As Ms. Creech pointed out, the Rockets have averaged 23 assists per game in this six-game winning streak. Harden missed the first two of those contests, against long time Texas-bullies San Antonio and Dallas. These sort of comments are common when a team is winning, but maybe Harden has realized that the entire world does not rest on his shoulders offensively. The fact is Houston is tied for 25th in the league in assist ratio despite this run of late. But it shows that all the talk about sharing the rock lately hasn't been hollow. The team is playing differently since the Spurs game, just like Parsons' said they were. And more importantly, Harden is taking note as well.
GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLL - For those of you that don't know, the Rockets hold the rights to one of the top guards in Europe, currently plying his trade for Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid. Sergio Llull (pronounced "yool") is a 26 year old combo-guard that the Rockets purchased from the Denver Nuggets in the 2009 draft for approximately $2.25 million, making him the most expensive player ever to be purchased during the draft's second round. This week Llull hit a game winner at the buzzer to win the Copa Del Rey (Spanish championship).
Chances are he won't be coming to America anytime soon, if ever. By all accounts, he enjoys Spain and loves playing for Madrid. But the prospects of him pairing up with James Harden are enough to make me drool. I've poured over his Draft Express page, watched all the highlights from the Copa Del Ray and constantly search for updates on his status. And I say pair up with Harden because the guy is absolutely an NBA starter. He's 6'4, plays defense like a pit-bull, has plenty of 3-point range (as you saw in the video) and his passing ability is the linchpin to his game. The guy is legit. His Draft Express profile at one time compared him to a Tasmanian devil.
It's unfortunate that he is already 26, because it may be a few more years before the Rockets are able to convince him to join the NBA. Llull has not ruled it out, and claims it is a dream to play in the NBA, but does not seem to be in a hurry to test his mettle against the world's best. However, rumor has it that his Real Madrid teammate and current top-European prospect, Nikola Mirotic, could be joining the Chicago Bulls this summer. Perhaps that could nudge Llull in the Rockets direction.
After seeing the impact Patrick Beverley can have so quickly in the Association, imagine a player that matches his defensive intensity but with more length, and has the offensive game of someone like Goran Dragic. The Rockets have already sunk a substantial amount of money into purchasing his rights; it's time to get Real Madrid to the bargaining table and buy him out of his contract. Get that guy to Houston.