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Listen you seem like a knowledgeable Spurs fan, but your points about the McGrady and Yao era with Morey at the helm simply aren't valid. He had two all stars (say what you want about both, I know I had my beef with each either on the court or off) that filled the seats and he did an incredible job building around them (see what the previous GM gave McGrady and Yao to work with). Should they have been traded a year or two earlier? I wanted them both gone, but the owner opted to bet on them recovering and being able to take the next step just like they did with Artest, rather than trade them away for lesser pieces (talent wise). It wasn't the aggressive route, but Morey has proven that he's about as aggressive as they come about moving assets so everything about holding on to McGrady and Yao pointed to Les Alexander.
When both guys proved that they were finally done, Morey did a masterful job of rebuilding in ONE year without tanking. Please show me the other GM's in league history that rebuilt an entire roster the way he did. Seriously give me examples of a team with zero stars in salary cap hell rebuilding in one year without tanking.
It seems like you're just a spoiled Spurs fan who (luckily for you) flat doesn't know what it's like not to have 3 cornerstones in place for an extended period of time and how a GM has to maneuver around the salary cap, draft, etc. to get to the point the Rockets are at right now. Anyone who understands the NBA and how contracts and draft assets work (who isn't a jaded Spurs fan) acknowledges that Morey has rewritten a lot of the rules when it comes to team management in the NBA. Arguing otherwise is just silly at this point.
Has Morey had some misses? Sure he has. He didn't even attempt to go after Zach Randolph and the Jeremy Lin contract was horrendous (That move wreaked of Les Alexander again, Lin's %'s aren't representative of the kinds of players Morey typically goes after).
my recollection of why Morey didn't trade Yao and McGrady was that he thought his best bet, LONG TERM, was to not trade them for non-stars, which was all that he could have gotten for them....and wait until their contracts expired and then start positioning the team to be in the position to make a move when a star, and then another, became available. When he had the opportunity to get the stars (first Harden, then Howard), he had the cap space and roster flexibility to make it happen. His strategy worked perfectly and now they are being talked about in the top 2-3 in the West...no doubt they have to prove it on the court but to say that Morey has done anything but a masterful job developing this roster is, IMHO only, wrong. The guy is a front office star.
This post was edited by 81horn 9 months ago
I may very well be wrongly minded about Morey's accomplishments/misses with the Rockets, but I'm not a Spurs fan. The last time I cheered really hard for an NBA team was the Olajuwon era Rockets, and I'm still kind of irritated about them trading Horry and Cassell for Barkley.
As a lifer Rockets fan, we can definitely agree on that trade not being a good one. For one, Sir Charles and Clyde despised each other.
Daryl Morey and the Quest for Redemption
I think most of us shared the same reaction to the Daryl Morey hire: huh?
After all, Carroll Dawson was getting old, but he'd never been bad at his job. Sure, there were down years and mistakes, but you couldn't fault a guy who turned Steve Francis into Tracy McGrady. He guessed right on Yao Ming, too. All in all, Dawson was a respectable GM whom most teams would be perfectly happy to employ.
I figured this Morey guy would do things the way Dawson had, since he had worked with him for a year. I had read a little about analytics and how Morey wanted to utilize them, but I figured it was just talk to sound fancy.
I could go back and find you tons of examples of writers, rival GMs, and fans disagreeing with Morey's method. For example, I could point out how Jerome Solomon hasn't been Morey's biggest fan. I could show you how one Philadelphia beat writer wanted no part in the analytics revolution just a year ago. Even columns that praised Morey were skeptical of his ability to build a contender through his system. And while The Dream Shake has almost always supported Morey fully, there's been some doubts here as well.
Let's take a step back for a second and understand what Morey had gone through since he started. I like to separate Morey's tenure into three phases.
Phase 1: Win Now!
Looking back, this was Morey's "easiest" phase. The pieces had been put together by Dawson and the team fit nicely. With limited cap space and maneuverability, Morey's major highlights came through the draft. Truly, this is where Morey started making a name for himself. Yes, he hit on trades (Luis Scola and Ron Artest's one year rental come to mind), but it was his ability to unearth gems in the draft that made him a fan-favorite here.
It's easy to look at this period now and think that the Rockets were unlucky to not do better. Injuries and the Jazz prevented them from advancing further in the playoffs. Morey let Jeff van Gundy walk and brought on Rick Adelman to lead McGrady and Yao to newer heights, but injuries derailed those dreams as well.
While Morey did his job admirably, it was difficult not to thrust a little blame on him. Why hadn't he traded McGrady for Joe Johnson? Why not flip Yao since he was always injured? Why did he push so hard for Shane Battier? How did he let Brandon Roy slip through his fingers? The first two questions are unfair, but I've heard all four in some form or another.
At the end of the day, Morey was given a wash due to the injuries. It wasn't until Phase 2 that the heat really came down.
Phase 2: Rebuild, but Still Win
I've said that the next time I really cry will probably be when the Rockets win a championship. I was 5 and 6 years old when the Rockets won their two titles, and I was spoiled right out of the gate. Winning championships isn't easy, it's hard.
I think back to all the hardships that Rockets fans have undergone since then. Hakeem, Drexler, and Barkley breaking down around the same time, Steve Francis turning the Rockets into his own AND-1 squad, and Yao and McGrady never able to fulfill their destiny together. But of all that, it's 2010-2012 that I'll remember most when the Rockets finally win a title.
Man, was this hard. It was hard for me, and it was hard for you. I can't begin to imagine what it was like for Daryl Morey and Les Alexander.
The Rockets were a tease during this time period. We all knew they weren't good enough to contend, but you couldn't help but love them. They were under-talented and disrespected, but they always gave 100%. We saw plenty of upsets against superior teams (in this three year period, the Rockets beat every team in the NBA at least twice besides the Dallas Mavericks). The Lovable Losers, my dad called them.
It was obvious that even if the Rockets made the playoffs, they wouldn't go anywhere. Maybe they would win a game, but even that was pushing it. And they were always pushing for a playoff spot, finishing ninth all three years.
And ninth place in the West is NBA purgatory. You're not good enough to make the playoffs, but you're not bad enough to get a good pick in the draft. And you look at the East and realize you would be the fifth seed.
Fans asked for tanking, but Alexander wouldn't let Morey do it; so Morey kept wheeling and dealing, turning assets into better assets. He called every team with a superstar and offered trades. With the old CBA, he figured sign-and-trades were the best way to go. Other teams like the Mavericks emulated that same method.
Three years in a row the season ended in heartbreak. Why didn't the Rockets just blow it up? Morey became a bit of a laughing stock around the league, desperate for the one thing that every writer with a computer harped on: a superstar.
Calculators don't go high enough to enumerate the number of times I read something along the lines of "Yeah, the Rockets will be fun to watch and it's cute that they're winning with the island of misfit toys roster, but they will never be good unless they land a superstar." I'm ashamed at the number of times I yelled back at my computer, "I KNOW!" or "THEN TRADE US ONE!"
And what's more, Morey's practices were coming into the limelight for the wrong reason. The Rockets don't give extensions, which turned players and agents off. Why sign with a team when you can't guarantee security past the first few years? Plus, Morey knew he had to keep some cap space available down the line, so most deals he tried to make were for one or two years. That made it difficult to get mid-level free agents.
Through it all, Morey kept doing Phase 1 Morey things: finding good value free agents (like Carlos Delfino and Samuel Dalembert) and picking up value in the draft (Patrick Patterson and Chandler Parsons). Even though things weren't going well on the superstar front, Morey was doing his due diligence and trying to build the team in any way he could.
That all culminated during free agency of 2012. It appeared that Morey had given up. He traded Lowry for a lottery pick and let Goran Dragic walk. Two of the three best players had been sent off for little. The "best" available point guard free agent was Raymond Felton, and the Rockets had traded both Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby, leaving them with no size or defense. And through it all, the prevailing question was "What is Daryl doing?"
The signings of Asik and Lin were nice, but no one expected those two to suddenly take the Rockets where previous groups couldn't. Our very own Mike Kerns thought that the Rockets were finally rebuilding (this isn't to knock Mike; I totally agreed with him). And from everything that we could see, that's exactly what the Rockets were doing. This was a 30-win team at best, which meant the Rockets might get a top 10 pick. It seemed that the Rockets had finally realized their failures and were going to admit that the last three years had been wasted.
Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm wrote:
Daryl Morey used to be a consensus fantastic GM; nowadays, we're not sure. We know he makes good moves, but that wonder boy shine has faded, as a somewhat artificial sense of joy is no longer enough once it's clear that it isn't being vindicated by the rewards that matter. For the first time since he entered this league as an unknown MIT prodigy, Daryl Morey needs to prove to us that he knows what he's doing. It's incredibly unfair, but in this murky business, it really is the only way to judge him.
It was over. He had lost. Time to move on and hope Alexander didn't give him the boot before he could repair his own image and have a shot at getting another job. For all of his successes, he still hadn't climbed the mountain, or even started his ascent.
Phase 3: Serendipity is a Wonderful Thing
And then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked Sam Presti called Daryl Morey on October 27, 2012.
Morey had finally acquired his superstar, but there were still doubts as to how good James Harden could be. In hindsight, it's easy to say, "Yeah, I knew he would be a baller," but look at the immediate reaction in the comments section when the news broke (also, props to wwert for calling 45 wins). There was equal parts confidence and trepidation. The worry was unfounded, of course. Let it be said that our own BD34 was on board from the beginning and called Harden's stats from the beginning (26/6/4).
Everything Morey had done had led to this acquisition. The Lowry trade that was bashed at the time? That lottery pick was essential to getting the deal done. Turning a broken-down T-Mac into Kevin Martin was key and gave the Thunder a current player to replace Harden off the bench. A young wing in Jeremy Lamb gave the Thunder a future scorer to replace Martin.
The assets, the trades, the draft picks. It all turned into the superstar that everyone said he could not, would not get.
You could end The Daryl Morey Story right there and it would be a happy ending. But life goes on. The Rockets surprised everyone and made the playoffs. They pushed the Thunder to 6 games with a young team that had been together for one day before the season started. Every other team had had at least training camp to figure it out, and teams like the Spurs and Grizzlies came into the season with cores that had been together for years.
The story didn't end there, though. Morey had maintained that getting the first superstar was the hardest. There's an underlying confidence to that statement in that Morey knows that if he can manage to get the second, he'll know how to build the team around them. Now, the biggest problem was finding the second star and getting him to Houston.
Dwight Howard's agents had told the Rockets repeatedly when Howard was in Orlando not to trade for the big man. He would be leaving as soon as he could, they told Morey. Thus, Howard was put on the backburner, but the Rockets never forgot, and Morey saw his chance.
There was speculation that much like the Harden trade, Morey's career came down to his meeting with Howard. If he didn't land the All-Star, it was only a matter of time before he would be out the door. He had proven himself by acquiring Harden, but having a playoff team and a championship team are two altogether different entities. And Morey had always maintained that a championship was the goal, not the playoffs. He's said that in the NBA there is 1 winner and 29 losers. He's right.
Finally, with the addition of Dwight Howard everything has paid off. The disappointment of the Yao/T-Mac era and the Phase 2 rut are firmly behind the Rockets. We spent so much of the playoffs talking about LeBron's and Duncan's legacies. Well, Daryl Morey's legacy is firmly tied to what happens next.
And maybe the Rockets won't win the title in the next three years. The odds say they won't get one even with Harden and Howard. But you have to remember one thing.
At least he got them here.
Daryl Morey has been through three phases as the Rockets GM. Each has had itve all led him to this moment.
This post was edited by maninblack1 9 months ago
9 and 4 at Texas sucks!
- Jeff Howe
The biggest problem with that trade was Dream and Drex had their rings and were in kick up their feet and and collect a paycheck mode.
Not too mention that Barkley finally allowed the Rockets to beat Seattle in a playoff series. The season before, the Rockets were destroyed by the Supersonics.
First, no, the Rockets do not need to shed any more salary. They accomplished that by trading Thomas Robinson.
Second, there's no guarantee that Howard will thrive, but I'm not sure how you criticize the move without comparing it to other possible paths of action. Howard was the #1 guy this offseason. Is that even debatable? And they got him through free agency, a year after Howard had no desire to be traded to Houston. That's just incredible. Basically, the Rockets got Harden for nothing. Their original plan was to trade what they traded for Harden to get Howard for Orlando. When that didn't work, they were able to trade for Harden (which was just a huge steal) and still set up the cap room to take on Howard -- and reel him in. That's just spectacular wheeling and dealing. So what was the alternative coming into this summer? Hold the cap room until next summer? Possible, but no guarantee any of next summer's big names look at Houston.
Then I was misinformed about their salary situation. The last I read was that Houston would be about $5 million short of cap space over the duration of the Howard contact.
I always said I loved the Harden pick-up for Houston. Howard may be such a safe gamble to be no gamble at all. Here's hoping he stays healthy and happy.
Dude, how can you say Morey got Harden for nothing when he had to give up Kevin Martin.........
I LOVED it when the OKC and some national media were touting KMart as a viable replacement for Harden, while Houston fans laughed as the biggest defensive liability in basketball and nothing more than a spot up shooter walked out the door.
Yeah, I'll argue that Carrol Dawson became terrible at his job. The Eddie Griffin trade, banking on Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley, Kelvin Cato's contract, Yao over Pau (I'm ducking on that one but I'm pretty sure Pau has had a much better and longer career than Yao), and then look at the supporting cast he put around McLady and Yao. I still can't believe that team took Dallas to 7 games with the abomination of a roster. Oh, and I definitely don't credit Dawson for getting McGrady, he was begging to play with Yao.
I want to take a trip back to the end of the Yao Ming era in Houston and look at just how Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has taken this team from utterly mediocre to superstar-laden and brimming with potential.
To start, check out the Rockets roster at the start of the 2011-2012 season. This is the depth chart from about 18 months ago as the Rockets were set to open that lockout-shortened year:
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Jonny Flynn
Shooting Guards: Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams
Small Forwards: Chase Budinger, Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris
Power Forwards: Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, Jeff Adrien
Centers: Samuel Dalembert, Jordan Hill, Hasheem ThabeetThese are pretty much average starters all around, a bunch of “nice” players but nothing special. From the prior year’s team, Morey had made deadline deals of Shane Battier for a look at Thabeet, Aaron Brooks for Dragic and a pick, and let Chuck Hayes walk. They used the picks received from those two trades to move up and draft Donatas Motiejunas, and also drafted Parsons and Morris. They also picked up Jeremy Lin off waivers, but cut him shortly after to make room to sign Dalembert.
The Moves Begin
Come March, the team is surprisingly in contention for a playoff spot, and makes some maneuvering around it.
Flynn, Thabeet, and a 2nd rounder for Marcus Camby
Jordan Hill for Derek Fisher and a first rounder
Shortly thereafter, the team cuts Fisher (hooray!) and releases Terrence Williams. They miss the playoffs, but have a winning record, coming away with their customary #14 draft slot. They also pick up Greg Smith from the NBDL after trying out and subsequently waiving several guys like Earl Boykins, Courtney Fortson and Jeff Adrien.
During the course of the season, Dragic shines while filling in for an injured Lowry, causing friction. The Rockets also had numerous free agents, including Dragic, Lee and Camby. Likewise, Parsons overtakes Budinger for the starting spot.
Morey starts dealing yet again.
Budinger for a first round pick (which becomes Terrence Jones)
Dalembert + #14 + a 2nd round pick for #12 pick, Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman, and Shaun Livingston
They now have three first round picks in the 2012 Draft, the #12, #16 (T-Mac trade), and #18 (Budinger trade) to take Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Jones and buy the rights to 2nd rounder Furkan Aldemir. Next up? Free agency, where the Rockets have ample cap room. But here’s where the moves start to get crazy:
Lowry to Toronto for a future expected lottery pick and Gary Forbes
Amnesty (waive with cap relief) Luis Scola
Sign and trade Marcus Camby for Toney Douglas, Josh Harrelson, Jerome Jordan, and two future 2nd round picks
Sign and trade Courtney Lee for JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Jon Diebler, and Sean Williams plus a 2nd round pick
Sign Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to max restricted free agent (RFA) contracts, utilizing a minor loophole nicknamed the “poison pill” to make their contracts especially tough to match
Trade Lamb, Kevin Martin, two first round picks (acquired in Lowry and Hill trades) and a 2nd (acquired in Courtney Lee trade) for JAMES HARDEN plus some guys (Cole Aldrich, D. Cook, and Hayward
Cut a bunch of the random guys acquired, including Shaun Livingston and E’Twaun Moore
Sign Carlos Delfino.
This offseason was defined by the little things – like acquiring Camby for a playoff run at the cost of a 2nd round pick (while getting a first for Jordan Hill), and then moving him in a sign and trade for two 2nd round picks, plus snagging a 2nd rounder for Courtney Lee. After all that, the team now sports the following roster as they enter the
Point Guards: Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas, Scott Machado
Shooting Guards: James Harden, Carlos Delfino, Daequan Cook
Small Forwards: Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris
Power Forwards: Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Royce White
Centers: Omer Asik, Cole Aldrich, Greg Smith
2013 Trade Deadline
But the moves aren’t done. Prior to the 2013 trade deadline:
Cut Cook and sign James Anderson
Cut Machado and sign Patrick Beverley out of Russia
Trade Aldrich, Patterson, and Douglas for Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia, and Tyler Honeycutt (who is… cutt)
Trade Marcus Morris for a 2nd round pick
Sign Aaron Brooks and Tim Ohlbrecht
The team makes the playoffs and gives the OKC Thunder an exciting series. The Rockets then make two final cap-clearing moves — the trade of Thomas Robinson for two international players and two 2nd round picks, and the unloading of Royce White’s contract at the cost of cash and the draft rights to Furkan Aldemir — setting themselves up to land the biggest fish in free agency, Dwight Howard.
So to recap our roster, and how they came:
PG, Jeremy Lin – Signed, free agency
PG, Patrick Beverley – Signed, undrafted free agent; minimum salary guy under contract for 3+ years
PG, Isaiah Canaan – 2nd round pick
SG, James Harden – Trade – which cost us what we got for McGrady (Kevin Martin, pick we got for Hill), Kyle Lowry (Toronto pick), our own pick+Dalembert (Lamb), and the 2nd rounder from the Courtney Lee deal
SG, Francisco Garcia – Acquired as a trade throw-in; resigned to vet. minimum (below market after a very good playoff run
SF, Chandler Parsons – 2nd rounder, a pick acquired in trade/bought
SF, Omri Casspi – Signed in offseason to vet. minimum
C, Omer Asik – Signed, free agency
PF, Terrence Jones – mid-late 1st rounder, rights acquired by trading Chase Budinger (himself, a 2nd rounder)
PF, Donatas Motiejunas – mid-late 1st rounder, rights acquired by trading soon to be free agents Battier/Brooks
C, Dwight Howard – Signed, free agency
C, Greg Smith – Signed, undrafted free agent; minimum salary guy under contract for 3+ years
We now have a tentative depth chart of:
Point Guards: Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Isaiah Canaan
Shooting Guards: James Harden, Francisco Garcia
Small Forwards: Chandler Parsons, Omri Casspi
Power Forwards: Omer Asik, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas
Centers: Dwight Howard, Greg Smith
We also hold the rights to international prospects Sergio Llull (bought the pick), Kostas Papanikolaou and Marko Todorovic (both acquired in the Thomas Robinson trade) and are owed the Knicks’ 2nd round picks in 2014 and 2015, two future 2nd rounders from Portland (plus the Clippers’ second rounder in 2015 if it’s between 51-55), while owing our 2nd rounder in 2014 to Philadelphia. We currently own all of our future first round picks.
That is how you redefine a roster. There is exactly one player that was on this team just 18 months ago – Chandler Parsons, who at that point was a newly drafted 2nd round pick.
Howard was drawn to this team for the chance to win. The Rockets could have tanked this year (not signed Asik/Lin), and having done that, they probably would not have gotten Howard (as the Mavericks didn’t). But Morey kept the team competitive while avoiding long term deals, which is incredibly impressive (see, Zaza Pachulia’s new three-year deal). The last two offseasons, Morey has waited and gotten a quality vet to sign a short term deal with a 2nd year team option (Dalembert/Delfino). Players who no longer have value to the Rockets as future players still seem to yield great returns (Battier/Brooks at trade deadline converted to first round picks; Camby and Lee as free agents converted to three 2nd rounders).
Part of the way this was done was by taking a shotgun approach to talent identification, which is how they landed guys like Beverley and Greg Smith for nothing.
They didn’t just pick them at first grab. Here’s the list of the 20+ players that were “waived” by the Rockets in the last ~2 years, essentially leading to guys like Beverley and Smith:
There have been misses along the way. Terrence Williams cost us a first round pick (this year’s, to Atlanta) and was cut. Royce White was the 16th overall pick just a year ago, and it cost us the rights to Aldemir just to unload him. Trevor Ariza was a signing mistake — a player who still has a year remaining on the contract he signed with the Rockets — but he was quickly flipped for Courtney Lee. You can argue about Thomas Robinson too, but at the end of the day, the Rockets were going to need to clear the cap room, whether it was Patterson or Robinson. The Rockets knew what they had in Patterson, but Robinson was a chance at that third star. On the off-chance he develops, it would have created more options for Morey (e.g., moving Asik instead). And when he didn’t quickly, the value was still there to get four second rounders and clear cap space. He also gave the team a veteran free agent-to-be who ended up re-signing here for the veteran’s minimum in Francisco Garcia.
Smart gambles. Smart contracts. Avoiding multi-year deals on non-core pieces. That is how you turn a duo of Kevin Martin and Luis Scola into James Harden and Dwight Howard, and the best part of all?
We’re not done yet.
NIKEstrad breaks down the past two years of Rocket transactions, showing how Daryl Morey's approach to team building set the Rockets up beautifully for this moment.
In the end, this specific duo may not bring a title to Houston, but I'm enjoying how Morey operates. He knows what it takes to win big and he's trying to do that. Taking his shots.
Signatures are stupid. You should block them.
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