His record-setting 10 three-pointers in one half against the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 24 made waves in the media, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of his worth. He’s a paradigm-essential wingman whose shot chart is the best testament of all to how proudly he lives out the basketball ideology his team espouses:
The 25-year-old Florida alum has thus far played on one of the cap-friendliest contracts in the league. Being the leader he is—Parsons is known to be the first Rocket to contact James Harden upon being traded, as well as an essential member of the free-agent pursuit of Dwight Howard—he hasn’t bristled, despite being wildly underpaid.
But you can be sure that making less than $1 million per year isn’t going to keep him in Houston for long. Spotrac indicates that his current contract is set to expire after the 2014-15 season and negotiations will be forced into motion.
In theory, though, Houston would love to deny the one-year team option on Parsons’ contract this offseason and lock him up as a restricted free agent—and at a higher rate—for many years.
By signing him for one more season at his current rate instead, the team would allow him to go into full free agency in the summer of 2015.
Can the Rockets afford a bidding war for Parsons?
Unless they can free up the requisite cap space for a new contract by unloading Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin or both in time to deny Parsons’ option and rework his contract this summer, they’ll have to compete with any number of other suitors for him.
The question becomes: Is Parsons worth the capital the Rockets may have to hemorrhage in moving Asik or Lin?
Both are unappealing trade pieces to most teams because of their bloated 2014-15 salaries and the Rockets would likely have to treat moving either as essentially a salary dump in which minimal active talent comes back and the kinds of draft considerations general manager Daryl Morey has sought in an Asik trade are almost certainly off the table.
If Morey values Parsons as much as he’s said he does, he’ll shop both players aggressively. But if his efforts are in vain and the Rockets are only able to commit to Parsons in 2015? Things could get interesting.
Especially considering the team’s recent aptitude for developing talent. The system and culture in place have reaped great results. Parsons, Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley have come along quickly in the free-roaming style the Rockets profess.
Veterans Aaron Brooks and Omri Casspi have also stepped right in to great benefit, reversing the momentum of their careers.
So while it’s likely that the team is set to shift things around or even go into the dreaded luxury tax for Parsons, its longest-tenured starter, there’s also the possibility that the Rockets are confident they can train or acquire a forward to replace him.
Perhaps Parsons suddenly isn’t so appealing to his front office once he’s not coming at a bargain and they’d rather part ways.
The X-factor, of course, is personality. In Howard and Harden, the Rockets have two superstars who do not often dictate in their locker rooms and prefer to go about things in a more private, personal manner. Parsons does more than anyone on his team to fill the leadership void, gluing things together behind the scenes as much as he sometimes does on the court.
If Houston is serious about making a run at a title, it likely needs his stabilizing presence to do it.
Whatever's decided about Parsons' worth just may have substantial impact on the NBA's title prognosis for years to come and the Rockets should be smart enough to see that they'd rather have him on their side in the vaunted Western Conference.
The time to reshuffle their core has come and passed—now it's time to hunker down and persist with the continuity they've established. They'd be mistaken not to see Parsons as an integral part of that.