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Houston Rockets GM and NBA analytics guru Daryl Morey Steps Down

Per Woj, after 13 seasons running the Houston Rockets’ basketball operations, Daryl Morey is moving on.

Morey, a rockstar of big data and the NBA analytics movement, leaves massive shoes to fill. Some might immediately look at Morey’s inability to assemble a roster capable of making the NBA Finals, but that’s a little unfair. To those haters, I say: 

His Rockets have made 8 consecutive playoff appearances, making it out of the 1st round in the last 4. That’s pretty impressive for any team, but especially for a team in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. 

Current rumors are that Morey will take some time away from the NBA, but not be opposed to a potential return down the road. Morey, an alum of both Northwestern and MIT Sloan School of Management, will have a breadth of big brain job opportunities lined up. His résumé is VAST. Honestly, he could go back into big picture business strategy/consulting and make WAY more money than he was in the NBA. He’s an incredibly intelligent dude with a plethora of career options. One could easily see him a year from now running a hedge fund, or pivot to a front office job in another sport, just because he can. 

Some might forget he was with the Boston Celtics for a time, as SVP Operations. His heavy emphasis on analytics with advanced technology in his approach to basketball revolutionized every NBA front office. After all, he is a co-founder of the world-renowned MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. 

Don’t Disrespect Daryl!

All in all, Daryl Morey’s tenure as the Rockets GM should be seen in a positive light. When most of the league (especially Western conference) elected to tread water and wait out the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty, Morey went right after them.

 Rockets get 13th straight win! — SteemKR

When other GMs were openly punting on free agency or making conservative trades, Morey fought to construct a team capable of beating them. Instead of making trades with their team 3-4 years from then in mind, Morey went all in. And he almost did it! The 2018 Rockets were up 3-2 on the Warriors (WITH KD!!!) before a Chris Paul injury derailed their playoff run. Instead of David beating Goliath, the storyline became James Harden’s inability to carry the load enough to get over the hump. Harden’s Game 6 performance in particular was a point of contention among hoops fans and media alike. Again, while up 3-2, the Rockets blew a 17 point lead after the first quarter with an abysmal 2nd half, scoring just 25 TOTAL points in the 2nd half. 

Why does this matter? Because Morey’s assembled Rockets team was THAT close to beating the Warriors. One of the best teams in modern history, and that season’s eventual NBA champions. Morey is one of the best basketball minds we’ve seen in the last 20 years, and should be remembered as such. 

More Savvy Than Most

To anyone still doubting Morey’s prowess I’ve jotted down my favorite Morey moves. Among a ton of trades and signings with Houston, Morey’s greatest hits include the following impressive transactions: 

Trades:

The trade: When call finally came, Harden was a Rocket - HoustonChronicle.com

  • Absolutely swindling Sam Presti and the OKC Thunder by trading for (then-future) MVP James Harden!!! Sure, Morey gave up 2 future 1st-round picks, Kevin Martin and rookie Jeremy Lamb, but it was VERY much worth it. 
  • Trading away Tracy McGrady JUST as he totally fell off, as part of the 3-team trade. The same trade that landed Houston Kevin Martin. The same Kevin Martin who was a crucial piece in the trade for JAMES HARDEN!
  • Trading for Chris Paul in 2017. Steep cost, Lou Williams, Montrzl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker and a 2018 1st-round pick, but worth it. 
  • Trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. HUGE move. Morey traded the 34-year old Paul, with 3 years of max salary left on his contract, for the younger Westbrook (30) with 4 years left on his max contract. One can question about the Westbrook and Harden fit all they want, but it seemed that Harden wanted to move on from CP3. This trade was a great way of doing so.

DID I MENTION HE TRADED FOR A LITERAL MVP/SUPERSTAR/ONE OF THE BEST SCORERS IN NBA HISTORY? HIS NAME IS JAMES HARDEN. 

Draft Picks:

Daryl Morey to Clint Capela: 'We watched you grow into a lion'

  • Clint Capela drafted with the 25th pick of the 2014 draft. Great value here. They ended up trading him and going with a small-ball roster, but what I would give for the Celtics to have had Capela from 2014 to 2019! 
  • Chandler Parsons drafted in the 2nd round, and then trading him before having to sign him to big $ like the Mavs and Grizzlies. Talk about FINESSE.
  • Montrezl Harrell (2019-20 NBA 6th Man of the Year) drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NBA draft. Major piece in the trade that made CP3 to Houston happen.

Signings:

Dwight Howard, Kevin McHale, Happy Walters, Les Alexander, Daryl Morey - Kevin McHale Photos - Houston Rockets Introduce Dwight Howard - Zimbio

  • Signing Lakers’ free agent Dwight Howard! Some might scoff, but this was a VERY big deal, and was a good move for Houston, even looking back. 
  • Patrick Beverly was signed up off the scrap heap, as a 24-year old free agent playing in Greece/Russia.
  • Robert Covington (RoCo) signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
  • Using the mid-level exception to sign PJ Tucker to a reasonable $32-million, 4-year contract in 2017. 
  • Signing journeyman Danuel House off the scrap heap, an immediate contributor for Houston’s 3-point heavy offense. 

Not Just a Stepping Stone

Moving forward, rumor is that VP of basketball operations Rafael Stone will be the next GM of the Rockets. A tall order for a rookie GM, considering Houston’s limited salary flexibility, unorthodox roster, and no coach for the upcoming season. However, Stone has quite the act to follow as the Rockets GM, given Daryl’s impressive body of work. 

Daryl Morey, I salute you

Here’s to hoping he enjoys his time away from the game, spending more time of family and all that jazz. To be honest, already can’t wait until he’s back and making waves in the NBA. Until then, we’ll have to monitor his content at the next few MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conferences. As a Celtics fan, I love Danny Ainge, BUT, if he were to move on or retire a few years down the road, I would totally support a Daryl Morey-led Boston front office. Keep us in mind, should the opportunity present itself, Daryl.

 

-Mike Gilligan (@BigGilli, @VerbalCommitPod and @SmallStateTakes Podcast) – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/small-state-big-takes/id1432138166 / https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/verbally-committed/id1516871465

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