Daryl Morey is the champion of finding silver linings.
The Houston Rockets general manager had his eyes on another star this offseason, parting ways with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to clear cap space, declining to pick up Chandler Parsons' ridiculously cheap team option and ultimately striking out when Chris Bosh spurned his squad to remain in a LeBron James-less South Beach environment.
But Morey, who ended up replacing Parsons with Trevor Ariza when he decided not to match the offer sheet the incumbent small forward signed with the Dallas Mavericks, doesn't believe his team is worse for the wear. In fact, as relayed by CBS Houston, Morey explained to In The Loop with Nick & Lopez why he didn't think the Rockets were a championship-caliber organization with Parsons on the roster for three years and $46 million:
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 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.
We are in a better [place] to win a championship by not matching it, once Bosh goes away than by not matching it.
Are they really?
Morey's offseason has been knocked by fans and analysts alike, some with stronger opinions than others.
"The Houston Rockets general manager's shown he's very adept at saving his owner Leslie Alexander a lot of money," wrote Chris Baldwin for CultureMap Houston. "That's all Morey accomplished in free agency while ruining a Rockets team that he claimed stood on the cusp all last season—right through that first round debacle against Portland and beyond."
That's taking things way too far.
Losing Parsons, a young small forward with potential to develop into a bona fide All-Star in the right situation, will be painful down the road, especially as he proves his value for the Mavericks. Missing out on Bosh hurts as well, especially when Asik and Lin went away without any help in the present.
However, Morey hasn't exactly ruined this team. If anything, Ariza is a better fit for the current squad, given his defensive proclivities and ability to light it up from beyond the arc. Parsons had those skills as well, but Ariza is, well, better in both areas.
Plus, the Rockets will have an opportunity to chase another star in 2015, when the free-agency class is even more loaded with talent and the cap rises even higher. According to ShamSports.com, Houston is on the books for $44,788,089 next season without Ariza's contract.
By getting rid of non-guaranteed deals and declining all options but Terrence Jones', that number only rises to $48,802,332 when Ariza's $8.2 million is factored in. The Rockets have plenty of cap room, potentially enough for a max contract if the cap rises enough, and can still use Bird Right's to re-sign Patrick Beverley.
And in 2016, they have even more flexibility:
Ariza's $32M deal has declining scale: $8.6M, $8.2M, $7.8M, $7.4M, source tells Yahoo. Flexibility for summer '16. @sam_amick reported deal.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 12, 2014
So, maybe they are in a better place.
After all, there are players even more appealing than Bosh available next summer. Essentially, the Rockets decided their ceiling fell short of a title with Parsons as the third cog, and he'd have to function in that role for a long time. Allowing him to walk gives them the ability to pursue bigger things down the road.
Are the Houston Rockets in a better place after essentially swapping Parsons for Ariza?
"You can't knock them for always trying to get better. [Houston general manager] Daryl Morey is very aggressive, is a genius, a great GM and I have nothing but respect for those guys," Parsons explained while also revealing he was offended that he wasn't considered the guy who could be the third star, via ESPNDallas.com's Bryan Gutierrez. "And they are looking to make their team better."
Losing a player of Parsons' caliber is tough, but the central figures in this circus may be correct. The Rockets, should they find sufficient depth and take advantage of next year's free-agent pool, may end up in a better position right away.
And given the flexibility they'll enjoy down the road, the big picture is still an awfully pleasant one.