In a somewhat surprising move, Daryl Morey recently stepped down as GM of the Houston Rockets. The longtime executive left the team after they yet again failed to win an NBA title. But while Morey wasn’t successful in his ultimate goal, his squad came awfully close.
It leads to the question of whether Morey could do the same with another franchise or possibly go further.
Career with the Houston Rockets
This might be reductive, but calling Morey the Billy Beane of the NBA is probably an apt comparison. Beane’s approach as a baseball GM was to exploit undervalued assets in baseball like players with great on-base percentages.
He used advanced analytics to accurately gauge players’ effectiveness. Because of this, he was able to put a team without a lot of financial resources into contention for a championship consistently.
Morey’s approach to basketball was similar. He heavily valued analytics and data in helping him evaluate talent. From an organizational standpoint, he stressed market inefficiencies. For example, at Morey’s behest, Rockets players were encouraged to shoot corner threes.
Why? Because they were worth more than the standard two-point shot, and corner threes are the shortest three-point shot (and therefore the easiest). Now the entire league places a premium on three-pointers, to the point where mid-range jump shots have almost disappeared completely.
Daryl Morey (almost) brought a title to Houston
Another way Morey revolutionized the game was to stress the importance of superstars. When super teams began forming in the 2010s, Morey realized his team would never be able to compete without at least one elite player on the roster. So he did everything he could to bring one to Houston.
First, it was James Harden. Morey traded for Harden when he was a productive but still up and coming young scorer with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In Houston, Harden blossomed into one of the best isolation scorers in NBA history.
Morey consistently pursued a second star to play alongside Harden. The first one up was Dwight Howard, then Chris Paul, and now it’s Russell Westbrook. None of them helped the Rockets get over the championship hump, but they came close on several occasions.
Why Daryl Morey stepped down as GM of the Rockets
So why did Morey leave? According to Fortune, Morey said he was doing it after having discussions with family and friends. It could just be that he needs a break.
The official line is that he resigned, but it’s possible the team pressured him out. The Rockets have come up short after multiple attempts to win a championship in recent years. It could be that the franchise wants a fresh set of eyes at the top.
There’s also the matter of Morey’s political views. The GM made it a point to show support for Hong Kong in their protests against the Chinese government. This created a firestorm that led China to boycott the NBA, costing the league billions of dollars.
It also created a public relations fiasco for NBA commissioner Adam Silver. That likely didn’t lead the team to pressure Morey out, but it couldn’t have helped.
What’s the next move for Daryl Morey?
What will Morey do from here? The guess is that he’ll likely do whatever he wants. Say what you want about Morey’s failure to win a championship in Houston: he got to heights few other NBA executives have ever seen.
In fact, Morey’s NBA hiatus only lasted a few weeks. the Philadelphia 76ers just inked a new deal with him, according to NBA.com. Starting with the 76ers unusual roster will prove to be a challenge for Morey.
However, Morey has shown he has the basketball acumen to turn a team from nothing into a serious title contender.