Examining Daryl Morey’s History and Legacy in the NBA

Fresh off another disappointing loss in the playoffs, the Houston Rockets stunned the basketball world by parting ways with longtime general manager Daryl Morey. While far from perfect, Morey was behind some of the most significant moves in the franchise’s history and can be credited with making the team a bonafide contender. Now, in Philadelphia, it’s time to look at Morey’s legacy in the NBA. 

The birth of Morey-ball

According to PeoplePill.com, Morey started out as a consultant with EY-Parthenon before getting his first NBA job with the Boston Celtics. There, he helped assist Danny Ainge and the rest of the Celtics’ front office by introducing analytics and forming a bridge between the basketball side of operations and the business side of things. This put him on the radar of former Rockets’ owner Les Alexander. 

Morey signed with the Rockets as an assistant GM in 2006 but quickly usurped Carroll Dawson as the team’s general manager. There, Morey built off the same type of thinking that Billy Beane used in Oakland with the Athletics of Major League Baseball. While talent scouting and getting big names were significant, Morey also used analytics to swing for the fences on major moves. 

At the time of Morey’s introduction, the Rockets approached the end of the promising Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady era of basketball. At their best, this duo led one of the league’s most exciting teams, but at its worst, the injuries constantly held them back before they could ever accomplish anything in the playoffs. This defined much of Morey’s tenure with the team. 

From bringing in a prime Ron Artest before he found World Peace to building some of the biggest lineups imaginable around a gargantuan Yao, injuries and bad luck meant that these moves never got the team where it wanted. Morey quickly developed a reputation as one of the savviest general managers in the NBA. 

Daryl Morey lands James Harden

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The defining trade of Morey’s tenure with the Rockets is the grand slam deal he made for James Harden, according to FanSided. Harden was the reigning sixth-man of the year coming off of a disappointing NBA Finals loss with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

However, after contract negotiations fell through, the Rockets surprised the world by trading for Harden in the 2012 preseason. The team had a superstar fresh off Yao’s retirement, whose final years were spent mostly watching from the bench.

Over the couple of years, Morey tried several different looks around Harden. His first significant deal, aside from Harden, was signing Dwight Howard fresh off his disappointing first go with the Lakers.

Howard and Harden never fully meshed together, however, and the team quickly moved on. Harden was the only star for one season, but in 2017, Morey swung for the fences again by trading for Chris Paul and signing him to a massive extension.

The team was within minutes of a potential Finals run in 2018 when Paul went down with an injury, and the team blew two-straight leads to get eliminated by the Warriors.

After coming up short the following year, however, the team moved on from Paul and traded him for Harden’s former teammate Russell Westbrook. After a 44-28 season, however, the team once again failed in the playoffs. 

On top of that, Morey kicked off his final year by causing an international incident with China. After retweeting support for protesters in Hong Kong, China quickly dropped the NBA, and a controversy was born that spread beyond the NBA. It was, perhaps, the perfect end to the Morey era. It showed promise after a major move but ultimately disappointed. 

Morey is now working with the Philadelphia 76ers under Elton Brand, but the move has people wondering what his legacy will be. 

What is Daryl Morey’s legacy?

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According to The Ringer, Morey has a complicated legacy. On the one hand, he was one of the pioneers of an analytics movement. On the other hand, however, he often reacted to his biggest failures with reactionary moves that some could view as hindrances despite their audacity. Morey set the path that many champions have followed, but he’s never been a champion himself. 

His time in Philadelphia will show whether the Rockets might have held him back for the last 13 years, or if the same mistakes will follow with all of the glory, too. Love or hate Morey, however, he could be one of the most important general managers in the history of the NBA.