The free agent dominoes, it seems, will be falling out of their designated order. While the basketball world at large waits for the decisions of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the Dallas Mavericks have agreed to the terms of an offer sheet with Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, according to ESPN.com.
The formal offer, which Parsons and the Mavs will reportedly ink at first opportunity when the July moratorium ends at 12:01 AM EDT on Thursday, will be worth a reported three years and $46.1 million with a trade kicker and a player option in its third season. That yearly salary is just short of the maximum allowed for Parsons, though the offer spans only three seasons rather than four (as was offered to Parsons' fellow restricted free agent, Gordon Hayward).
As soon as the Rockets receive the Mavericks' offer on Parsons, they will have 72 hours to match it. That will be a fascinating window; should Houston intend to keep Parsons, they'll need to resolve all other business requiring cap space before doing so. Parsons contributes only the value of his qualifying offer ($2.9 million) to Houston's cap total until this offer sheet is resolved, while also tying up the value of his offered 2014-15 salary ($14.8 million) to Dallas' cap total. The Rockets, then, still have the ability to sign Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony or some other free agent into their (prospective) cap room and match the offer to Parsons provided they move quickly and carefully.
There's much to be done. All of the Rockets' offers to Bosh and Anthony to this point have been dependent on the resolution of at least two other deals to clear room under the salary cap, one reportedly agreed to and the other ready in concept. The former is Houston's unloading of reserve center Omer Asik to New Orleans in exchange for a first-round pick. The latter would send Jeremy Lin to Philadelphia with picks attached. Both are needed for the Rockets to clear near-max cap space, yet neither move has yet been executed. Interestingly, the deal with the Pelicans technically cannot be official until New Orleans manages to clear cap space of its own to absorb Asik's salary – yet another move that must transpire in due time. Parsons' offer sheet will shift both of those trades (or all three, if you include New Orleans' cap-clearing precursor) into a more urgent time frame, assuming that the Rockets have any interest in keeping Parsons at this offered rate.
There is a possibility that Houston does not. That prospect seems crazy given that the Rockets turned down a dirt-cheap team option so that Parsons could become a restricted free agent this summer rather than an unrestricted free agent next year, but reports to this point suggest that Parsons and Houston may not be in perfect alignment. For one: That Parsons intends to sign his offer sheet at the earliest possible moment makes life difficult for the Rockets, challenging the team to set its table within the aforementioned three-day window. Beyond that, Parsons reportedly negotiated with the Rockets throughout the day on Wednesday, according to Yahoo! Sports. Had the two sides reached a tentative agreement along these same lines, they could have merely waited to complete it until after Houston had conducted its other free agent business. That Parsons was willing to commit to Dallas' offer doesn't merely convey that he's open to leaving, but also that he's not necessarily willing to fold his own interests into Houston's greater plans.
Dallas, though, does not enter into this agreement without risk. Apart from the implicit dangers of committing $46.2 million over three years to a sub-star, the Mavericks will essentially have their full window of cap space committed for the next three days. Should Houston maneuver quickly enough to match and keep Parsons, those will be three precious days wasted in a market likely to change by the minute. Thanks to the moratorium (in which teams are allowed to discuss deals but not sign them), every negotiation to this point has gone formally unfulfilled. Once players and teams can actually ink binding contracts on Thursday and beyond the landscape could change quickly. The Mavs have already moved on from Anthony to Parsons. If this deal doesn't go through, though, they could be too late to join the bidding for their next tier of contingencies, including Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza.
To pull on another thread: the Rockets have reportedly been in talks with those same small forward runners-up (along with Paul Pierce), according to Yahoo! Sports. This may not communicate anything at all in regard to Parsons. Houston has a famously diligent front office known to pursue every possible means of improvement without regard for apparent redundancy. Those quality wing players might be on the Rockets' radar as alternatives to Bosh and Anthony with Parsons still very much a part of the Rockets' future. They could also be long-shot explorations – the kinds of discussions every team has, but that in this case are publicized due to Houston's particular circumstances.
This entanglement also loops in a few higher-profile machinations, as Houston's countdown clock influences the timetable in which it can sign Bosh, which could then alter or accelerate the decision of James, which not only steers the outcome of both Miami and Cleveland but all of those other teams waiting for this process to play itself out. Just days ago the Mavericks were quietly going about their business, content in the fact that they were on the fringes of the Melo lottery. Now, with an offer sheet to a prized supporting Rocket, they've claimed a position of power within the broader landscape of free agency. If Dallas can't have its first choice of available players, then perhaps it can find its way to happy consolation by forcing the action.