Yesterday evening news broke that the Houston Rockets were declining to pick up Chandler Parsons' 2014-15 team option, making him a restricted free agent. Had they used the option, they would have been able to have him on the cap books for a paltry amount next season but he would have been an unrestricted free agent that Houston would have been hard pressed to retain.
Naturally this news set social media abuzz, and Kings fans in particular as Rudy Gay's future with the team is in doubt. Parsons checks all the features of a player that the Kings are seemingly after in that he can shoot, pass and defend. Last season he averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists while shooting 47.2% from the field and 37.0% from three. As a free agent, Parsons will instantly be one of the more coveted players this offseason.
Now while it is prudent to remember that Houston can match any offer, and could possibly use Parsons as a sign-and-trade chip to try to land another star like Carmelo Anthony, things don't always go according to plan, and that's where a team like the Kings could come in.
As of now, the Kings probably don't have enough cap space to outbid other teams that could be in the hunt for Parsons' services. Assuming Rudy Gay opts out, the Kings have about $11 million in projected cap space when you factor in the #8 pick and Isaiah Thomas' qualifying offer. As our friend pookeyguru has noted in the past, that number is probably closer to $9 million when you consider that DeMarcus Cousins' maximum contract extension kicks in at a higher cap number than before. A starting salary of $9 million is not going to cut it for Parsons. In fact, the only way the Kings could possibly pry Parsons away from Houston is either a sign-and-trade (perhaps for the 8th pick if Houston is looking for another asset to dangle) or by offering him more money than they would be comfortable matching.
One wrinkle in the CBA that would help a team like the Kings is the fact that matching an offer for a Restricted Free Agent means that you can't trade that player for a year after without his consent, which could potentially spoil any plans the Rockets might have to use his salary to trade for another star.
So how much money would it take for Parsons to sign an offer sheet with Sacramento, forcing Houston's hand? Probably upwards of $12-13 million a year, effectively meaning you'd be signing Parsons to a near max contract. Consider that a couple years ago Minnesota signed Nicolas Batum to a 4 year, $46.1 million offer sheet that Portland then matched. Is Parsons better than Batum? He'd almost certainly be paid better.
Of course this is all speculation, and most Rockets experts that I've talked to seem to think this move by the Rockets to make Parsons a RFA solidifies his status as a Rocket for the long term. The Kings would also need to make some salary cutting moves to open up the space to make such an offer, perhaps by buying out Jason Terry. There are also many other teams that will likely be bidding for his services. But it doesn't hurt to think ahead, especially when the Small Forward position will revert back to being a dark morass of despair should Rudy Gay leave.