Discerning Morey’s Philosophy – Part 8

These are trying times for Daryl Morey.  After early acclaim, consecutive lottery finishes have brought out the skeptics in full force.  “How can one be deemed competent, much less some sort of genius, without tangible results?” the thinking goes.

As I’ve explained in all of my evaluations, of just about everyone from Kevin McHale to Tracy McGrady over the years, context and circumstances are what matter.

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, GM’s in all of basketball.  And in truth, he’s done a great job, hitting on all of his high picks in drafting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.  But look at the circumstances under which he took over that team.

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Talking Rockets, Part I

The following is an e-mail conversation between Red94 founder Rahat Huq, and myself, Red94 writer Michael Pina. It began with us debating whether or not the Rockets should go after Dwight Howard, and evolved into a more general discussion about the team, this offseason, and where things are headed next. This is Part I, look for more entries in the coming days. [read more…]

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Yesterday I tackled why trading for Rudy Gay could be Houston’s first step towards associating their basketball team with wins, prime time television slots, and clear identification. But when it’s placed in a vacuum, the acquisition feels inadequate. Gay is expensive, and to build around him—and him alone—would be a mistake.

After watching his entire career (including college) I get the feeling he’s too serene of a person to consistently lead others on the basketball court. That doesn’t mean he’ll never win a championship, only that as the best player on a team, he’d be a more marketable version of Joe Johnson.

When the Celtics moved the No. 5 pick for Ray Allen five years ago, it felt like the team just bought Paul Pierce a new car, only the doors were locked, and the keys were rendered useless on the driver’s seat. Then Danny Ainge jimmied the window open, sparked the ignition, and placed Kevin Garnett’s foot on the gas.

Today I’ll be covering a much bigger fish, giving reason to why Gay as a secondary option could take the Houston Rockets to the places they want to go. This ensuing transaction is the type of move that wipes mist off the windshield. [read more…]

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The last three years have been a torturous Groundhog’s Day for fans of the Houston Rockets. Where we currently stand as another season has come and gone, two (or one) more marginal difference makers are scheduled to join the squad after this month’s NBA draft. Last year, Houston begrudgingly accepted the 14th pick. The year before that? The 14th pick. This year they have the 14th and 16th selections.

The overwhelming emotion for anyone who watches this team on a regular basis is frustration. The Rockets aren’t stumbling, they aren’t bursting forward into a hopeful future, and they aren’t making noticeable changes. Despite a slew of trade deadline deals—not including a blockbuster preseason trade that was aborted by the league—and a shrewd draft pick, the end result for this team is dangerous preservation. When patience hits a brick wall, excuses aren’t tolerated. The only question worth asking is “How do we get better?” [read more…]

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This post is Part 2 of a three-part assessment of Daryl Morey’s performance in 2012.  Part 1 can be accessed here.  It is also cross-listed within the Morey series, an evaluation of Daryl Morey’s overall tenure with the Houston Rockets.

Awaiting verdict: Marcus Morris

Most people following this team would define Marcus Morris as a bust and one of Morey’s biggest blunders.  I don’t quite understand how that conclusion is reached regarding a guy who played a total of like seven minutes the entire season.

First, as just stated, it’s silly to form conclusions off such a limited sample size.  Marcus Morris could be a bust.  But it’s just too early to tell.

Second, let’s stop pointing to Kawhi Leonard—whom the Rockets took a white version of in the second round—as evidence of some blunder.  Leonard’s been fantastic for the Spurs.  But he’s also gotten a chance, unlike Morris.

The Spurs start slowly each year because they sacrifice games in taking time to integrate new pieces.  In the Kevin McHale assessment, I discussed ‘agency cost’ whereby agents of a corporation may not necessarily have motives in line with the best interests of the corporation itself.  Poppovich enjoys lifetime tenure with the Spurs; McHale must scrap for every win to prove his worth.  Consequently, the latter decided not to take the risk of playing Morris.  That Morris did not get playing time is not some indictment upon Morris’ abilities.

Furthermore, to contest the above point, critics of the Morris pick point to Chandler Parsons.  “If Parsons as a rookie was able to get playing time, then the theory that McHale didn’t play young players has holes,” went the argument.

What the critics fail to understand is that Parsons and even Patrick Patterson don’t have those weaknesses that require most young players years to overcome.  In that sense they’re anomalies – there was no reason for McHale to not play them.  They are both mentally strong and smart, like veterans.  Their weaknesses are physical limitations.

Morris, on the other hand, has physical gifts.  It’s in the mental adjustment where he’s lacking, as is customarily the case.  Coaches under fire can tolerate players being too short or slow; it’s missing defensive assignments that really grinds their gears.

Lastly, the Rockets began the season as one of the worst defensive teams in the league, coming off a season when they boasted one of the best offenses.  McHale needed defense and Parsons provided it.

When assessing a pick, one needs to consider the thinking that went into the selection.  The same critics that dismiss Morey as overly conservative fail to realize the thought process used last June.  The Rockets know they need impact players, having a team of role players.  They could have taken a cookie-cutter positional type, like Leonard (whom the critics retrospectively pine for), and gotten nowhere.  Instead, they took a gamble.  There isn’t impact talent available at 14.  But the thinking went that envisioning Morris as a future ‘3’—identifying a potential market inefficiency—was the best bang for the buck; it was the best chance at ‘impact’ that low in the draft.  It could have been a complete waste – we don’t know.  Time will tell.  But the point is that it was a calculated risk and that it’s too early to reach a verdict.

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