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Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks Sign Offer Sheet, Screw With Daryl Morey

Apr 12, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (suit) watches from the bench during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 12, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (suit) watches from the bench during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Restricted free agency is the NBA GM’s safety net.

Have a potentially disgruntled young star glancing at greener pastures? Keep him with restricted free agency! The Los Angeles Lakers are clearing cap room right as your prize draft pick ends his rookie contract? Stick it to them with restricted free agency! Does the need to overpay a wing burn in your veins? Go for a restricted free agent, and when asked to explain your frivolousness, blame the system! Any player ending his rookie contract is subject to rules that enable an incumbent team to keep him. They don’t even have to do the negotiating — just wait for an offer sheet, build suspense for three days and match it.

Well, almost any player. A funky little CBA quirk dictates that second round picks are RFAs after their rookie deal expires only if it lasts less than 4 years. If it goes the full quatro — the player is an unrestricted free agent.

That’s what we’re seeing this summer with Lance Stephenson, a rare 23 year old who’s hitting the free market far earlier than usual. And that’s what the Houston Rockets tried to avoid with prized forward Chandler Parsons. By declining his minuscule team option, the Rockets made Parsons a RFA this summer. The assumption was that paying Parsons slightly above the minimum salary and potentially losing him next summer was worth less than bumping up his salary immediately and getting first dibs. It was a savvy bit of pound wise in the face of a potentially penny wise alternative.

Unfortunately, that strategy backfired, as Parsons signed a 3-year, $46 million deal with the Mavericks. But it’s not the sum that screwed over the forward thinking Rockets — though a slight overpay for Parsons, athletic two way jack-of-all-trades forwards are hardly common. Rather, it’s the other terms of the deal.

Instead of offering Parsons the full 4 years allotted to them by the CBA, the Mavs gave him a 3-year deal. Even worse, they gave him a player option after just two years. Since the Rockets, should they match the offer, are bound to the exact terms agreed to by Parsons and the Mavs, Daryl Morey’s gambit to prevent Parsons from hitting unrestricted free agency in 2015 will result in Parsons having the option to do so just one year later, at around 30 times the cost.

Is this a master stroke of trolldom by the rival Mavs? Hard to say. Dallas just re-signed Dirk Nowitzki to a three year deal, and may be trying to attain maximum flexibility by making sure Parsons doesn’t gobble up post-Dirk cap space. And we weren’t there for the negotiations — perhaps Parsons demanded the shorter deal and/or the opt out. He probably had the leverage there, with a Mavs team gasping for some youth on he wings. That said, this works out so badly for the Rockets that one suspects Mark Cuban, whether maliciously or opportunistically, is smirking somewhere.

As for the Rockets, they land somewhere between “good process, bad results” and outsmarting themselves. They probably would have had a fairly good shot at Parsons in unrestricted free agency next summer, but wanted the RFA safety net to last longer in the face of a free agency land scape that grows more and more bewildering by the year. If they decide Parsons is worth bringing back even at a bear max deal, they’ll pay through the teeth for just one more year of that luxury. If not — good luck in Dallas, Chandler.

Noam Schiller

Noam Schiller lives in Jerusalem, where he sifts through League Pass Broadband delay and insomnia in a misguided effort to watch as much basketball as possible. He usually fails miserably, but is entertained nonetheless. He prefers passing big men to rebounding guards but sees no reason why he should have to compromise on any of them.