The biggest losers in NBA free agency – yes, ahead of the Miami Heat – are the Houston Rockets. They went from being hours (minutes?) away from having arguably the best starting five in the NBA, to losing their
starting occasional starting point guard, starting small forward, and striking out on Chris Bosh. It was a chaotic few hours for Houston, but here’s the thing: Just because they didn’t reach their full potential, it doesn’t mean they’re not contenders in the West.
Jeremy Lin (33 starts last season) is gone, though some would argue Patrick Beverly is so much better defensively, Lin’s loss is no big deal. Chandler Parsons – 16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 47/37/74 is a more difficult departure to swallow, mostly because of how it went down.
Essentially, the same move that Houston GM Daryl played on the New York Knicks in 2012 to steal Jeremy Lin is how the Rockets lost Parsons to the Mavericks, with one slight difference: Houston didn’t have to let Parsons hit the market this summer. If the salary cap and its deep, intricate details put you to sleep, here’s as concise a paragraph on the subject as you’ll find:
The Rockets hold a $960,000 option on the fourth and final year of Parsons’ contract for the 2014-’15 season, but want to avoid letting Parsons, 25, become an unrestricted free agent next summer. As a restricted free agent in July, the Rockets can match an offer sheet and retain Parsons on a long-term contract.
Easy enough, right? We’ll get another max deal (Bosh) and then match whatever someone offers Parsons and really be loaded. But then Chris Bosh backed out, and the Rockets were left with a brutal decision: Make Parsons your No. 3 star, and be locked in financially for the next few years, or cut him loose and remain flexibility?
What stings even more about the loss of Parsons is the Rockets found him in the 2nd round of the draft, a gem who turned into the perfect role player. As Morey told a Houston radio station: “If you want to win the title, you have to be the team that finds the Chandler Parsons, not the team that gives Chandler Parsons the max contract.”
And that’s why Rockets fans should be OK with cap flexibility given to them by not overpaying for Parsons. The NBA rumor mill was churning for weeks about why the Rockets would let him become an unrestricted free agent – perhaps it was a favor to his agent, who happens to be Dwight Howard’s agent – but now that they’ve reeled in Trevor Ariza, does it really matter?
Yes, I get that the media loves Morey, and of the few NBA GMs who are vocal on twitter, Morey is probably the best at interacting with fans. (The media probably loves him far too much, as evidenced quite well in this piece at The Cauldron.) But do you want to be the guy giving Chandler Parsons $16 million a year?
Yup, the Rockets are the biggest losers in free agency because July is built on hope and potential, which Houston had plenty of. Losing Lin and Parsons and whiffing on Bosh (plus giving up a draft pick) hurts terribly. But they’re still one of the six best teams in the West, and better yet, they’re flexible, meaning if Morey sees something he likes in 2015 free agency, he’s got the flexibility – something the Knicks would kill for; Miami certainly wishes it had flexibility coming into this summer – to swing for the fences like he did with Harden and Howard.