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.