Daryl Morey undecided on Chandler Parsons’ option

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The Houston Rockets are going to take a risk with Chandler Parsons, but which one?

Parsons is under contract for $964,750 next season with a team option.

If the Rockets pick up the option, they’d get Parsons for that ultra-cheap salary next year. However, he’d become an unrestricted free agent in 2015, and Houston would face a greater risk of losing him for nothing.

If the Rockets decline the option, Parsons would become a restricted free agent this summer. The Gilbert Arenas applies only to players with one or two years experience, so Parsons doesn’t qualify. But because the Rockets has Parsons’ full bird rights, they could match any offer he receives. Plus, Parsons’ restricted status would likely cool the market for him, because other teams would know Houston could match any offer.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, in a Q&A with Jonathan Feigen of Ultimate Rockets:

Q: How do you make a decision on picking up the option on Chandler Parsons’ contract when you don’t know what will happen in free agency two weeks after your deadline to make a decision?

A:”We won’t know everything we need to know when we have to make a decision on Chandler’s (contract) option. We have to make the best decision at the time we have to make it (June 29).”

Morey’s decision very well could hinge on Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.

Free agents continue to count against a team’s cap until renounced or signed. How much a free agent counts against the cap – called a free agent amount – depends on multiple factors, but whenever Parsons becomes a free agent, he offers a big opportunity for his team.

This summer, his free agent amount would be $1,760,350. Next season, it would be $1,833,025. Either way, that’s extremely low for a player of Parsons’ caliber.

Houston could let Parsons sit on their books at his free agent amount, use all their other cap room and then re-sign Parsons to his larger salary ($9 million per year or so).

But the Rockets aren’t slated to have cap room this summer, so Parsons’ extraordinarily low free agent amount wouldn’t really help now. They’d still just have the mid-level, bi-annual and minimum-salary exceptions to sign free agents.

However, the Rockets are expected to have cap room in 2015, when the contracts of Asik and Lin expire ($8,374,646 each). Then, Houston could use the aforementioned trick to get most from its space before re-signing Parsons, assuming Parsons agrees to wait.

This all changes, though, if Asik and Lin are traded sooner. Either they could be traded for less salary (giving Houston cap room this summer) or a long-term contract (eliminating Houston’s cap room next summer).

Unless he’s already traded them by Parson’s option date, Morey has to weigh the likelihood of trading them later among many other factors. The decisions on Parsons is definitely complicated.

With the information I have available, I’d exercise Parsons’ option, and the call isn’t that close.

Asik and Lin hold actual 2014-15 salaries of $14,898,938 (even though their cap amounts are lower), so trading them won’t be easy. The Rockets definitely think Asik is undervalued, and they might be right. But if nobody else knows it, it doesn’t matter as far as trades. They face similar difficulties with trading Lin.

Plus, at a cheap salary, Parsons is a tremendous trade asset himself. If he becomes a restricted free agent, not only would his higher salary make him less desirable, he’d have the right to approve any trades for a year if Houston matches an offer sheet to keep him.

Unless an Asik-Lin trade emerges before the end of June, the Rockets should exercise their option on Parsons and reap the rewards of their good drafting and smart signing for one more year.