Chandler Parsons. Max player.
Is he or isn’t he?
That was the question posed to Rockets GM Daryl Morey twice this offseason.
Only, Morey gave two different answers.
When Morey passed on Parsons’ $1 million option for 2014-15 two weeks ago and let him enter restricted free agency, Morey’s actions told you, yes, Parsons is destined for NBA stardom – or the watered-down version that sees guys like Gordon Heyward netting $16 million per – and with it the payday that comes with it.
Best way for Morey to play his cards, then, would be to let Parsons test the market, with Morey deciding in advance that he would match any offer sheet Parsons might land.
Best-case scenario: you get Parsons at a discount.
Worst-case: you get him for what you’d have to, and want to, pay him next offseason.
And that’s exactly what happened. The Mavericks offered Parsons max money, but not max years: $46 million over three seasons as opposed to four. And with the opt-out after the second season – again, assuming Parsons becomes the max player you’ve already said (implicitly) he’s going to be – probably only two, given that Parsons would at that point want out of the old deal in pursuit of an even bigger, and longer, new one.
A win for Morey.
And yet, when it came time to sign on the dotted line late Sunday night, Morey’s stance on Parsons seemed to make an about-face. Parsons was not a max player, and, given what Morey believes it takes to win a title in this NBA, as he told Nick and Lopez In The Loop Monday morning, bringing back Parsons would bring down the Rockets’ championship chances:
“It takes three, at least, three elite players with very little exception, throughout history, it takes three elite players and a good set of players that fit around them. Once (Chris) Bosh said ‘no’ it put us into another very difficult decision of, is matching Chandler Parsons, do we have a better chance of winning a title by matching it or not matching it.
“That comes down to a very simple question, is Harden, Howard, Parsons a three that can be a championship three? I actually think it can be. I think Chandler is a great player, getting better. Really really good player, no doubt. But the question is actually: is Harden Howard Parson, is that three a better championship odds than Harden, Howard and the team we can put together with a guaranteed lottery pick trade exceptions mid-level young team improving and continuing to be flexible? That was the very tough decision before us. But I can tell you this, in our opinion it was not close.”
Translation: Parsons isn’t that elite player, and the Rockets needed to ensure themselves the cap room to get him. Whoever he is. Whenever he’s available.
Morey also makes it pretty clear: Bosh’s decision on the Rockets (as opposed to the Miami Heat, where he signed for a five-year max offer instead of Houston’s four-year variety) was going to have much influence on his decision on Parsons.
But it didn’t have to. If Parsons was a top-15 player, missing out on one (Bosh) wouldn’t mean walking away from another (Parsons).
As for the contract structure, and Dallas reportedly wording the legalese in such a way that, if it didn’t work out, Parsons’ deal would be tough to move: didn’t not picking up the $1 million option mean you were all but sure that it would work out?
Not to oversimplify a complex issue, but if Parsons was a max player, the play was to do exactly what Morey did – except for the part about not matching the offer sheet. If he wasn’t, pick up his option at $1 million and see what happens. Who knows? Maybe Parsons’ play would made Morey want to offer him a fifth year in his next deal.
Now, for the game of wait and see – and whether Parsons becomes who Morey said he was two weeks ago, and who he later said he wasn’t this weekend.
A max player.