- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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By no means did the Dallas Mavericks enter the summer planning to pay more than $15 million per year to a small forward who has never played in an All-Star Game.
A strong argument can be made that Chandler Parsons will be overpaid while earning more than $45 million over the next three seasons, the value of the offer sheet the restricted free agent signed Wednesday night. But making the deal so big was a calculated business move by owner Mark Cuban and the Mavs.
Simply put, the Mavs wanted to make it as painful as possible for the Houston Rockets to exercise their right to match the offer to Parsons, the promising, productive small forward who is just entering his prime at 25.
As detailed by dallasbasketball.com, the Mavs have thrown a major wrench into the rival Rockets' offseason plans. The offer sheet to Parsons, along with the max salaries of Dwight Howard and James Harden, makes it practically impossible for Houston to execute the one-two punch of signing Chris Bosh to a max deal and keeping Parsons, even if the Rockets shed the salaries of every other player on the roster.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey has been forced into making difficult decisions the next few days. Does he scramble to dump salaries, attempt to talk Bosh into taking a less-than-max deal, and enter luxury-tax territory by matching the offer to Parsons? Does Morey swallow hard and pay Parsons much more than the Rockets planned while keeping their bargain-priced role players, sacrificing the ability to make a major addition to the core of a team that failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs?
These can't be the kinds of decisions Morey saw coming when he declined the option to pay Parsons $965,000 next season, a move the Rockets' front office surely regrets right now.
Maybe Morey believed that having the restricted tag on Parsons, who would have been an unrestricted free agent next summer if he completed his rookie deal, would depress his value in the open market. It had the opposite effect, as was the case with Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward, who signed a four-year, $63 million offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets.
Morey clearly hoped that Parsons would play ball with the Rockets, waiting until Houston had taken care of its other major business before cashing in with a big contract. However, Parsons obviously felt the need to put pressure on the Rockets to get paid as much as possible.
If the Mavs are being honest, they'll admit that Parsons will be overpaid, no matter the market trend. They pegged the Plan B tier of small forwards in free agency -- Parsons, Hayward, Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng -- as a group whose value ranged from $8 million to $12 million per year.
Parson was the Mavs' preferred target among the Plan Bs, but they had to go big if they were going to roll the dice on a restricted free agent who fits in the plans of his current team. The asking prices of Ariza and Deng are higher than the Mavs' perceived value of those players, so Dallas was going to have to bid higher than they hoped to get any small forward in that tier. If that's the case, it makes the most sense to do so with Parsons, whose arrow is going up after averaging career highs of 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists last season.
The hometown-discount deal of Dirk Nowitzki gives the Mavs the luxury of overpaying to upgrade at small forward. Nowitzki's new three-year deal will pay him in the neighborhood of $10 million per season, a number the Rockets would double in a heartbeat if they could get their hands on the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history.
Parsons at $15 million per year? That's an awfully steep price.
A Nowitzki-Parsons forward pair at $25 million per year? That's an awesome value.
1dMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon