It’s every basketball player’s dream to be selected in the NBA draft. While a minuscule number of players have even a remote chance of being selected with the first overall pick, most are just hoping to be picked in the first round. But should those first round hopefuls be careful what they wish for? Sometimes the answer is yes…
The 2011 NBA draft was fascinating in regards to how the talent was spread out so evenly amongst selections 1-60. In fact it was the first draft in NBA history to have an eventual All-star selected with both the first overall pick — Kyrie Irving — and the last overall pick — Isaiah Thomas. While we often view getting selected in the first round (as opposed to the second round) as the better financial outcome, one player selected with the 8th overall pick of the second round in the 2011 draft would beg to differ.
Chandler Parsons played four years the the University of Florida and while he was named SEC player of the year in his senior season in 2011, few would call his four-year career in Gainesville prestigious. Parsons never averaged more than 12 points per game in any one season and coupled with his age, was never viewed as a legitimate first round pick by many draft experts.
The Houston Rockets selected Parsons with the 38th overall pick in the 2011 draft and because there is no set salary scale for second round picks as there is with first round picks, Houston and Parsons agreed to a four-year deal worth just over $3.6m.
While most second round picks are signed to standard 2-year league minimum contracts (for players with 0-years of experience — a $1.2m value in 2011), the Rockets were able to lock up Parsons for four years at a higher average annual salary due to the fact that they were able to sign him with a mid-level exception rather than having to use the minimum salary exception.
While Parsons’ deal was for more years and more money than he would have received with most other teams, it was all but guaranteed. Only the first two seasons of his contract were guaranteed ($1.7m) while the final two seasons gave the Rockets the option to cut him without any financial obligation ($1.9m total).
After a solid rookie season, Parsons burst onto the scene in his 2nd and 3rd years with Houston. He averaged 15.5 and 16.6 points in those seasons respectively, and the Rockets were then faced with a tough choice. They could have exercised his fourth year team option and kept a highly productive player at a minuscule salary for that season letting him become an unrestricted free agent the following summer, or they could have declined his team option and made him a restricted free agent with the right to match any offer he were to receive in free agency.
The Rockets chose to decline the team option, hoping that no team would extend Parsons an offer they didn’t want to match. When Dallas offered Parsons a huge, 3-year, $46m deal with a player option for the third season, Houston felt that matching such an offer would have put them in a bad position (Houston would not have been able to trade Parsons until year two of the contract which could have, in all likelihood, been his final year until he became a free agent).
Now, with Parsons finishing up his second season with Dallas, he holds the option of opting into the final season of his contract next season (worth $16m) or becoming a free agent now and entering the highest demand market the NBA has ever seen with the salary cap set to rise to a reported $92m.
If Parsons opts out and elects to become a free agent this summer, he can sign a maximum level contract with Dallas worth five years, $124m (!). If that does indeed happen — and that is a big IF — Parsons will actually make more money than the number one overall pick in the 2011 draft, Kyrie Irving, through the first nine years of their careers.
Note that years 6-9 for Parsons are assumed values based on a max-level contract with Dallas.
While Irving is nearly four-years younger than Parsons and will likely have a longer career by that reasoning, Parsons couldn’t have been luckier to slip to the second round.
Had Parsons been taken in the first round, he would have had his first two years guaranteed and almost assuredly his next two years guaranteed as well, but then would have likely signed a contract extension at the same time Irving signed one. This would have likely taken Parsons’ contractual obligations through the massive salary cap spike both this summer and next summer and easily would have meant less career earnings.
If there was ever a player so thankful that he didn’t get selected first overall or even in the first round, Chandler Parsons is that guy.