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Mavericks Trump Rockets in Free Agency

The Houston Rockets took a significant step backwards as they lost Chandler Parsons to cross-state rival Dallas Mavericks.

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The Houston Rockets were hoping to be one of the big movers and shakers in free agency this summer after landing Dwight Howard last year. Unfortunately, as the big names start to dwindle and the pool of free agents dwindles down to “tweak” players, the Rockets have taken one significant step backwards. Meanwhile, their biggest rival to the north took a huge step forwards.

As it turns out, it was something of a Texas two-step.

The first step was Houston opting to pick up the option on Chandler Parsons’ contract, making him a restricted free agent. The plan was never to actually let Parsons, who was incredibly instrumental in bringing Howard to town, slip away, but merely to let some other team set the price tag for Houston to match. In the mean time Houston expected to lure Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh to town, then match any offer for Parsons and enter the 2014-15 season as possible favorites to unseat the defending NBA champs in San Antonio.

And then the Dallas Mavericks stepped in.

In what can only be seen as a dare-to-be-great move, the Mavericks signed Parsons to an astronomical offer sheet, paying him just over $15 million per season for three years, and dared Houston to match.

Houston declined.

It’s a tough situation for the Rockets, who traded away Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to make room for a massive free agent signing, then had to settle for former Rocket Trevor Ariza in what was ultimately a three-team trade involving Omer Asik and Omri Casspi heading to the New Orleans Pelicans. To make matters worse, they opted not to match the offer sheet for Parsons and now have serious work to do just to be as good as the team that lost in the first round of the playoffs last season. Ariza will make the team better on the defensive end, but he isn’t nearly as dynamic on the offensive end as Parsons, and he lacks Parsons’ tremendous potential.

On the flip side, we have the Mavericks, who also needed to make a big splash in free agency to assure Dirk Nowitzki of more than a first round playoff exit. After failing to draw interest from LeBron James or Anthony, the Mavs set their sights on Parsons, one of the best young small forwards in the game. The Mavs knew they would have to set the price high to make Houston think twice about matching, and in the end it was the Rockets who blinked. Having already traded for Tyson Chandler, the Mavs are significantly better than last year’s squad with Parsons on the wing.

All is not lost for the Rockets, who still have cap space to use in their efforts to rank among the West’s contenders, but that now looks like much more of a long shot in the wake of Chris Bosh spurning them for Miami and Parsons’ departure to Dallas.

The Mavericks also have some work to do, most notably at point guard, but the addition of Parsons is first-rate, and makes them immediately younger and better  – two things they desperately needed to be.

Bill Ingram is a Senior NBA Analyst for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA since 1998.

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