No doubt by now you’ve heard the Yahoo! Sports report that the Rockets plan to decline the option on Chandler Parsons‘ contract by the end of this month, which would make Houston’s starting small forward a restricted free agent this summer.
David Weiner has been breaking down the details of this fascinating contract over the past year. In a nutshell, by the Rockets declining their team option, Parsons will be able to sign with any team — but the Rockets will have the ability to match the offer sheet he signs. If the Rockets pick up the option, then they get Chandler at a bargain rate (less than a million dollars) for one more year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
While I don’t think it’s 100% that the Rockets will do this (too much can happen between now and June 30), there are plenty of positives to taking this route: The Rockets have more control. They play the restricted free agency game very well. It forces the player to prove their market value. It’s possible to get Chandler at a better salary. It gets Parsons the big bucks one year sooner. It opens the possibility of sign-and-trades involving Parsons.
But for me, the big takeaway from this is not that the Rockets will decline Parsons’ option but rather how absolutely brazen the Rockets have been about their ability to trade Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.
It’s almost as if they’re already gone.
It started shortly after the Rockets’ exit from the playoffs when team owner Les Alexander said about this summer, “We’re going to have cap room to bring in a terrific free agent.”
Only one problem: The Rockets don’t have cap room. They need to trade Asik and Lin to create it.
Next, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was asked on Twitter what kind of free agent the team could acquire this summer, and Morey responded that the Rockets “can create max [cap] room.”
We can create max room & have mid-level, bi-annual exception RT @Houstonhogan7 what kind of free agent can you get this year?
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) May 8, 2014
And now this report surfaces about how they will handle Parsons. This too is another indication that Lin and Asik are toast.
The Rockets do not want to sign anyone long-term before acquiring their third-best player, expected to be a significant contract. If the Rockets were to sign Parsons for say $10 million a season, their cap room possibilities would be stung and their fallback plan (2015 cap room) would be wiped out. So if the Rockets really are going to make Chandler a restricted free agent with the intent to match any offer, then the clock is clearly ticking on Lin and Asik trades. The Rockets would get no real benefit by allowing those two to come “off the books” in 2015, if Parsons already has his new deal.
Another thing to consider with this news is that the Rockets might not clear cap room at all. To pursue a major free agent like Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets would need to pinch every penny, but by making this move, Chandler’s cap hit would increase by $2 million before he is signed. This would seem to make trade, not free agency, the more likely avenue to improve.
I would not be surprised if the Rockets are looking to make a complicated three- or four-team deal that sends out Lin and Asik, along with a treasure trove, that nets them their player. By doing it in one fell swoop, the Rockets would remain above the cap and keep their mid-level exception ($5.3 million) to sign a better free agent or try to bring over a player like guard Sergio Llull or forward Kostas Papanikolaou.
But the bottom line with this news is that the Rockets are either extremely confident in their ability to dump off Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin — or, by putting this info out there, they want the NBA to think they are.