Chandler Parsons became a restricted free agent this weekend when the Houston Rockets declined his fourth-year team option in order to free up cap space for the start of free agency on Tuesday. The Rockets are heavily linked to both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as unrestricted free agents, in hopes of combining one of the two with James Harden and Dwight Howard to form the NBA's latest “Big Three".
The interesting thing about their bid to do so is that one could argue that they already had one in place. Chandler Parsons might not be the flashiest name in the NBA, but he and his solid overall production are on the wish lists of many NBA teams.
Brand Name Performance at a Discount Price
The Rockets found a gem in Parsons in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft (selected 38th overall), and have had his services for three years now for about $2.7 million dollars total. That’s right, over the last three seasons, Parsons has cost the Rockets less than one-third of what they paid Jeremy Lin last season alone.
In fact, Parsons was only the 12th-highest paid player on his team last year, making a mere $926,500. That’s peanuts by NBA standards, and less money than the Rockets paid the likes of Jordan Hamilton and Ronnie Brewer. For an idea of how insane that is, Parsons was the team’s third-leading scorer last season with 1,226 points total, compared to 138 for Hamilton and 7 for Brewer, who was waived by the team mid-season.
Calling Parsons the best dollar-for-dollar player in the league, even without doing some sort of calculation to prove it, is a point very few people would argue against. Now, as a restricted free agent, he’s likely to garner a huge raise (possibly in the range of 1000% or more per season). Whether or not it’s the Rockets that will give it to him remains to be seen, but make no mistake, someone is going to pony up for Parsons.
Chandler of All Trades
There will be 29 teams that strikeout on LeBron and 29 that aren’t able to land Melo. Although those are clear as options A and B for small forwards in free agency, Parsons as option C will make some team very happy. The reason for this is that he does a lot of things very well.
He’s known primarily as a three-point shooter - and deservedly so, knocking down 1.8 per game at a 37.0% clip - but he’s far from one-dimensional. Of his 987 field goal attempts last season, 381 of them came in the restricted area, where he shot 59.8%. For the record, that was the fifth most attempts by a player that played the majority of his minutes at small forward this past season. His success rate was also more than 5% better than Melo, who outweighs him by roughly 30 pounds and is considered to be one of the most versatile scorers in the league.
Apart from efficient and effective scoring, Parsons is also a great passer. His 4.0 assists per game ranked him ninth among frontcourt players last season and his 2.07 assist-to-turnover ratio was the top mark of forwards who had a usage rate above 15% (19.4%). Throw in his underrated defensive ability and the 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game and you’ve got a great overall package.
For fun, there were only four players in the entire league that finished last season with averages of more than 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists, while shooting at least 45% from the floor and 37% from three. Those four players were Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Chandler Parsons. That’s not to say that Parsons is necessarily in that class of players, but he definitely deserves more attention than what he’s getting.
Of the 139 players in the NBA that had a player efficiency rating (PER) above the league average last season (15.0), only 11.5% of them were small forwards - the smallest percentage of any position. In other words, it might be one of the thinnest positions in the game. If a team whiffs on one of the big names, they should be more than happy to land Parsons, whose PER was 15.9 last season. His nERD score of 3.9 ranked him 8th among small forwards on our Player Power Rankings and he’s the only one in the top 10 that is available and not named LeBron or Carmelo.
If the Rockets can’t come to an agreement with Parons that helps them maintain their flexibility to add other players, someone else is bound to throw a lot of money at him in the form of an offer sheet (with the Mavericks, Timberwolves, Lakers, and Bulls all supposedly interested in his services). If the Rockets aren't able to keep him (either by signing him themselves or matching an offer he might receive) and don't land one of their big free agent targets, the gamble not to keep his salary under $1 million on the fourth year of his rookie deal might prove to be a costly one on the part of Houston GM Daryl Morey.
With the NBA's open season for free agency moments away, we’ll know soon enough if the gamble will pay off or if the Rockets will lose their diamond in the rough.