The Dallas Mavericks’ front office can exhale now.
Its extremely risky roll of the dice did not come up snake eyes. Restricted free agent small forward Chandler Parsons is officially a member of the Mavericks after the Houston Rockets declined their right to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet to him.
At more than $15 million per year, the Mavs are overpaying for Parsons, but they are happy to do it, a luxury afforded by Dirk Nowitzki accepting a major hometown discount on his soon-to-be-official deal for three years in the neighborhood of $30 million. Other than proven superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the Dallas decision-makers considered Parsons to be by far the best option in this free-agency class to fill their need at small forward.
The Mavs bid high on Parsons, whose deal is just shy of a max contract, because they wanted to call Houston’s bluff as boldly as possible. The Rockets had vowed to match any offer for Parsons -- who would have been paid $965,000 next season if Houston didn’t decline the team option for the last year of his rookie deal -- but changed their plans after missing out on All-Star power forward Chris Bosh in free agency.
There was certainly some luck involved in the Dallas front office's success. The Mavs signed Parsons to the big offer sheet believing LeBron James would go to Cleveland, a domino that would cause Bosh to head to Houston. The Mavs' hope was that the Rockets would wince at paying the luxury tax, prompting them to let Parsons leave.
Well, that's not how it all turned out.
Dallas was right about the LeBron domino, but had the Rockets signed Bosh, they'd have kept Parsons as part of arguably the NBA's best starting five next season. Without Bosh, Houston general manager Daryl Morey apparently couldn't stomach the thought of sacrificing future cap flexibility to match the massive offer to the Rockets' third-best player.
So the Mavs' logic didn't end up being right, but they love the result.
Houston agreeing to a four-year, $32 million deal with small forward Trevor Ariza on Saturday was a good sign for the Mavs, but they still expected to hold their breath up until the 10:59 CT Sunday deadline. Houston let the Mavs off the hook about six hours earlier, informing Parsons that he wouldn’t be returning to the Rockets.
By that point, Dallas didn’t have a fallback plan it wanted. Ariza, Luol Deng (Miami Heat) and Paul Pierce (Washington Wizards) all signed elsewhere over the previous 24 hours or so. With all due respect to Shawn Marion, the Mavs wanted to move on from the 36-year-old as their starting small forward. Signing Lance Stephenson would have been an act of desperation for a front office that considered him untouchable due to character concerns when free agency opened.
The Mavs don’t have to worry about any of that now.
They didn’t accomplish their long-standing goal of signing a big fish, but they have hope that the 6-foot-9, skilled, versatile Parsons can grow into a star after averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his third NBA season. He’s a proven player with a lot of promise, giving the Mavs a foundation piece whose best basketball is to come.
For the Mavs, that makes Parsons well worth the price, especially after the rest of the board was picked clean.