Is Chandler Parsons the Ideal Trade Chip to Dangle in Kevin Love Deal?

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Is Chandler Parsons the Ideal Trade Chip to Dangle in Kevin Love Deal?
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves may not have to decide between win-now and win-later pieces in their potential return package for All-NBA forward Kevin Love.

Not if the star-searching Houston Rockets come calling with an offer built around Chandler Parsons, a proven commodity with substantial room to still raise his ceiling.

The 25-year-old has made statistical gains in each of his three NBA seasons. During the 2013-14 campaign, he set career marks in points (16.6), rebounds (5.5) and assists (4.0).

Despite the offseason arrival of Dwight Howard and his 11.3 shots a night, Parsons made himself a bigger part of Houston's offense than ever before. Both his field-goal attempts per game (13.3) and his usage percentage (19.3) were personal highs. His assist percentage was the best of his career (17.3), and his turnover rate had never been lower (11.7), via Basketball-Reference.com.

"For the vast majority of the 2013-14 season, Chandler Parsons was a human metronome of offensive production," Rockets.com's Jason Friedman wrote. "He could consistently be counted upon to deliver...wonderfully filling the Swiss Army knife role within the Rockets’ up-tempo offense."

Parsons feels like he's arrived. After all, he was one of only seven players to average at least 16 points, five boards and four assists this season, and one of four to do so while also connecting on 100-plus threes.

Yet, it's easy to forget he's played all of three years in this league, the first of which was the lockout-truncated 2011-12 campaign. He's established himself as a team leader on and off the floor, but will only be experiencing his third full offseason this summer.

Parsons is a best-of-both-worlds option for the Timberwolves if when they decide they're ready for a Love-less existence.

Despite the public showings of confidence that they'll keep the walking double-double, all the behind-the-scenes smoke suggests this team has accepted its fate.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press reported the Timberwolves are "open to the idea" of moving Love in the right trade. A rival executive told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that "looking at deals for [Love] is an option" now for the Timberwolves. Another source said Minnesota is "paving the way" for a draft-night deal, via Sporting News' Sean Deveney.

There's plenty of smoke here, surely some fire and a laundry list of potential trade partners all eagerly awaiting the chance to deliver their sales pitch. The only question is which will present the most compelling case.

A lot of that will be decided by the Timberwolves and what they choose to pursue on the trade market.

If Minnesota is ready for the reset button, maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers could flip the No. 1 pick to anchor the Wolves' rebuild. If they're looking to salvage something out of the win-now pieces they put around Love (Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer, for instance), then the Chicago Bulls could send up proven commodities like Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler.

What if the Wolves aren't interested in embracing the extremes, though? What if they're searching for both current and future help?

Well, then someone like Parsons has to look awfully appealing. Especially with the increasing likelihood that his financial future will be settled sooner than later.

For years, he's provided the Rockets with door-busting value. The 43rd-ranked scorer last season played for the 373rd-ranked salary ($926,500).

Parsons has another red-ticket clearance $960,000 team option for 2014-15, but he could add a couple zeroes to his salary before the season starts.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Wojnarowski reported the Rockets plan to decline the option, which would make Parsons a restricted free agent. If the Rockets exercised his option, Parsons would enter unrestricted free agency next season, removing all control Houston would have over his future.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle later reported the Rockets have not "finalized" a decision about Parsons' contract, but added that a source said Houston is "leaning towards" sending Parsons to free agency this summer.

The Wolves need to be tracking this story closely. Parsons is a far more attractive target in a sign-and-trade swap than he would be with one year of bargain production followed by offseason uncertainty. Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated explained:

As a hypothetical, let’s say the Timberwolves and Rockets were interested in a trade package centered around swapping Love for Parsons. Minnesota’s interest in such a deal without a long-term commitment from Parsons would be minimal. The last thing you want to do after trading a franchise player is watch the player you received in return walk out the door the very next summer. Theoretically, Houston and Minnesota could reach agreement on a sign-and-trade involving Parsons that could satisfy everyone: the Rockets would receive Love, the Timberwolves would receive Parsons on a long-term contract, and Parsons would get his pay day.

With a contract extension in hand, Parsons could emerge as the best trade candidate potentially available.

He has plenty of room to grow, so there's not a worry that he's peaked like Minnesota might have with Boston Celtics veterans Brandon Bass and Jeff Green.

Parsons also has a high basement, a safety valve that wouldn't exist with a rookie. Joel Embiid could have a better career than Parsons, but what if the 7-footer's back problems keep it from ever taking off? Andrew Wiggins oozes athletic ability, but what if that raw ability never develops?

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Parsons eliminates that risk, but does so without removing any chance at seeing a future reward.

There aren't many trade packages that could feature a player like that. Maybe none, unless the Golden State Warriors decide Klay Thompson is expendable, or the Phoenix Suns add Most Improved Player award winner Goran Dragic to their bid.

Even then, those players might be at Parsons' level, but are either clearly above it? Considering the Timberwolves appear to have their point guard of the present and future in Ricky Rubio, plus the sweet-shooting Martin for at least two more years, they might not be looking for an offer centered around backcourt talent.

Parsons could either fill the 3 spot, long a problem area for this roster, or serve as a small-ball 4, giving Pekovic a balanced floor to bang under the basket.

Parsons could scratch a lot of Minnesota's itches, both now and going forward. He should be at, or at least near, the top of the Timberwolves' trade targets.

The only question is whether the Rockets would let him go. It's never easy to part with now-and-later contributors, but if Houston really wants Love, parting with Parsons might be the only way to make it happen.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com.

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