Every year the NBA gives out it's meaningless awards for Most Improved Player, Sixth Man, Coach of the Year, etc. one award however to me actually means something, which is the Executive of the Year award. It's an award that honors the best front office person of the year, an award that I dream to win one day. Throughout this season, RedNation has been waiting for Morey to win Executive of the Year (a long overdue honor for one of the best GMs in the game) and this year was the year he would finally win it. After years of out smarting the draft, finding hidden gems, fleecing other teams via trades, and using loopholes to his advantage, he would finally be mentioned with the Pat Rileys and Danny Ainges of the world.
Then the complete unexpected happened, Masai Ujiri won the Executive of the Year, our own beloved Daryl Morey who didn't even finish second, he finished TIED FOR THIRD. Gary Sacks, the GM for the Clippers finished ahead of Daryl. The same guy who runs the team which will lose the best player the team has ever had in its history this summer because he failed to extend him. Unlike Mr. Sacks, Daryl actually has his best player locked up for the next 5 years, and can possibly lock up Chris Paul for 4 as well. R.C. Buford (Spurs) and Pat Riley (Heat) tied Daryl in first place votes with 4. What did they accomplish this year? Signing Ray Allen? Daryl's 13 year old daughter could tell you that's a no brainer move to make. As for the Spurs, I can't tell you what big moves they've made this year, because they haven't made any. Maybe cutting Stephen Jackson and signing Tracy Mcgrady was worthy of 4 first place votes. Now, I'm usually not one for harping on these awards, but to me there wasn't one which was more clear-cut other than Lebron taking home the MVP. To say that I think this is a joke of a result, is a severe understatement.
Now that I've got a tiny bit of what I feel off my chest, I'm going to look at all the positive and negative moves Ujiri and Morey have made starting from after the Heat won the championship last year.
Ujiri's Good Moves:
Acquired from Orlando: Andre Iguodala
First of all, props to Ujiri for strong arming himself into the Dwight deal, and getting a good return for it. However, I go back and forth looking at this trade, because Iguodala is a very good player, he is an elite defender, and he has unbelievable athleticism. He however does lack a consistent jumpshot, but asking for him to have one would just be greedy. Ujiri signed Afflalo to a 5 year up to 43M contract, which is a fair contract for a slightly above average starting shooting guard, but the slight increase in price for the upgrade to Iguodala makes this trade worth it. Al Harrington is who we think he is, a fringe rotation guy who most likely wouldn't of had a meaningful impact on this year's Nuggets. The second round draft pick is most likely after the 45th pick, which makes it worth little to nothing, it's merely a throw in. The first round pick is protected, so it will be in the second half of the first round, where teams can still find good players, especially in a draft which is as deep as 2014, but there's only a chance of that happening given that this pick will most likely be in the 20s.
I mentioned earlier I go back and forth on this trade, yes Ujiri did successfully dump nearly 50M in salary, but it could potentially be for a rental of Iguodala for a year. Iguodala could get a better offer from another team (Houston possibly) and make like a gold miner and rush to a place with a possible brighter future for him. If that happens, we would most likely look back at this trade and think "Wow, what a good deal, until Iguodala left, and the Nuggets were stuck with nothing for a good young player and a first round pick". That's only a possibility though, if Ujiri is in that situation again, he makes that trade each and every time, and it was a very good one.
Drafted Evan Fournier with the 20th overall pick
Other than Damian Lillard, Evan Fournier is the steal of the 2012 draft in my books. He's regarded as one of the best young guards in the league with lots of untapped potential, and watching him play you can see it. Look at the players drafted after and before him, Royce White (more on him later), Fab Melo, Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross, John Henson, John Jenkins, and Jarred Cunningham. At this point, would you take any of them over Evan? Only one I'd think about would be Lamb, but it'd be a tough argument to make. I just talked myself into: Evan Fournier Draft Pick of the Year.
Extended Andre Miller to a 3 year 14.6M contract.
Some people will say that Andre gets paid too much, he's too old, he can't play defense, ect. but with all that he remains to be one of the best backup point guards in the league today. He is a veteran who is an offensive genius, he manages the game like very little point guards can, he is always at least 2 steps ahead of the defense, and probably has the best post game on the Nuggets. The beauty behind this signing is that, Andre doesn't seem like he will drop off that much over the three years, Ujiri knew what he was getting with Miller, a point guard who has poise and makes sure the offense won't miss a beat when the second unit comes in. A skill needed when the starter is Ty Lawson who can play out of control at times. He might be overpaid a little, but it's worth it to have a reliable back up point guard on a contending playoff team for the next 3 years. This is a smart move by a smart GM. However, the good moves end here.
Ujiri's Bad Moves:
Extended Javale Mcgee to a 4 year 44M contract.
I get it, Javale has tons of "potential" due to his unbelievable athleticism, and given the right situation he could prosper into an impact center. However, you don't sign a guy no matter what the potential 11M a year for him to play 18 minutes a game. That's a quarter and a half, or 3/8s of a basketball game, for a guy who is getting paid ridiculous money. Outside of Andre Iguodala, he's the HIGHEST PAID PLAYER on the team. You do not pay a backup center 11M a year, and for 4 years at that. This contract could haunt the Nuggets for the next 3 years while he's on the team, and probably will be the difference between getting annually knocked out in the first round and competing in the conference finals. That seems harsh, but it's the truth, we've seen what can happen to teams who are stuck with large contracts, to watch their championship hopes float away because of them. Look at Orlando (Rashard), Kenyon Martin in Denver, and almost all the Knicks signings of the last decade. Bad contracts added to bad players usually don't match, and that is what Ujiri has seemed to got himself into with this one.
Signed Anthony Randolph to a 3 year 6M contract.
I'll make this one quick, because there's not much to say about Mr. Randolph, other than that he played only 8 minutes a game during the season, and 6 in the playoffs. He averaged 5 points and a rebound. He's a non factor, and he gets paid almost 4 times as much a year as say James Anderson. Every million matters, believe it or don't believe it, but this is about 1.5M spent of unnecessary money, especially when there are players who can give you 8 minutes a game and the same numbers as he does for 500K a year.
As seen, Ujiri made some very smart moves which definitely made his team better, but certain moves he made as well could appear to be a huge burden on their future. The Nuggets although young, are in win-now mode, and don't seem to have as bright a future as other teams do.
Morey's Good Moves:
Traded to Oklahoma City: Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, Bobcats 2013 second round pick, Top-20 protected first round pick from the Dallas Mavericks, and a 1-3, 15+ protected first round pick from the Toronto Raptors.
The trade all Rocket fans and Morey had been waiting for finally happened, we finally acquired a superstar. A superstar we've been waiting on since the times of Yao and Mcgrady. The icing on the cake, he's staying here. Within the first couple days he was in Houston, Harden signed an extension, inking that he will stay in Houston for the next 5 years. They did something that OKC failed to do and are reaping the benefits. Harden now in his star role is a top scorer in the league, a top passing shooting guard, and an above average rebounder for his position. He is a bonafide superstar, no ifs ands or buts about it. I'm going to stop raving about Harden, because we all know how good he is, the real story of this trade is in what the Rockets gave up and didn't get in return.
The Rockets gave up their best player Kevin Martin, an offensive minded shooting guard whose flawed game fully relies on whether he is getting fouls or hitting the 3 pointer. Kevin is due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and would've left Houston if he were still with the team, given him being public with his negative feelings for management.
As well leaving Houston for Oklahoma, was the quickly beloved Jeremy Lamb selected 12th overall via the Bucks pick (more on that trade later). Lamb has tons of untapped potential, but this year he has failed to secure a spot on the Thunder roster, and has been used as trade bait multiple times during the season, while not playing a meaningful minute this season.
The picks appear to be valuable assets for a young team, but realistically only the Toronto pick will really yield any fruit for either team. The Toronto pick is predicted to be around the 10th overall range, not a bad pick, but not what a team should get in return for a budding mega-star. The Mavericks pick, given their situation, they might not see for the next 3-5 years, and the Bobcats second round is valuable given that it's early in the second round, but if Jeremy Lamb (12th overall) can't play meaningful minutes with the Thunder, what says a second round pick can.
Morey was able to move 2 picks which don't have much value, a player who was on his way out of Houston anyway, a young shooting guard with starter potential, and a late lottery pick for one of the best up and coming shooting guards right now. One thing however about this trade is that Morey was able to do two things 1) Keep Chandler Parsons whose contract makes him an ideal fit anywhere, and 2) Didn't take on Kendrick Perkin's contract which has already been a hamper to the Thunder in not being able to give Harden the money he wants. Morey made a killing in this trade, and changed the future for a franchise stuck in-between mediocrity and the playoffs for the best.
Signed Omer Asik to a 3 year 25M contract.
When I heard that Daryl was making Omer Asik his top target in Free Agency, I thought he was crazy. This is a guy who had (has?) no offensive game, never had more than 10 rebounds in a game, and had conditioning issues. Put those things together, and Omer Asik shouldn't be and shouldn't ever be a starting center in the NBA. Luckily, I'm not the General Manager and Daryl is. He knew ever since Asik entered the draft what he could do on the basketball court, and that showed this year when he led the league in total rebounds along with showcasing his defensive genius. He still has a lot to work on offensively and needs to work on his conditioning. Only two teams really knew what Asik could do, the Bulls and the Rockets. Daryl used the Poison Pill Provision to sign away Omer Asik from Chicago, and hasn't looked back since. Omer has to be the biggest steal of free agency this last summer. He has a bright future ahead of him in the league, and congratulations to Morey for knowing that the whole time.
Signed Carlos Delfino to a 2 year 6M contract (Team Option Year 2).
Daryl waited until near the end of free agency to sign Delfino, and proves to be the strategy teams should take when trying to acquire a three point shooting wing. It's not that Delfino is a real steal (which he is) for the money, it's that many other General Managers insist on paying guys who do the same thing more, and earlier in free agency. For example Kyle Korver (due ~5M this year). Other General Managers insist on getting them early and overpaying, Morey insisted on waiting and getting a steal. Fun Fact: Carlos Delfino leads NBA history in three pointers attempted per 36 minutes. He fits into Morey's plan and he has a great contract. This is a quality signing by Morey.
Signed Patrick Beverley to a 4 year 2M unguaranteed (my spelling sucks) contract (Team Options all years)
Morey took a flier on a young point guard from Russia, who ended up starting and leading the Rockets to two playoff wins. How many undrafted rookie PGs do you know that have done that? It never happens, but Morey had faith in him and knew what he could do. He plays defense until the whistle is blown (and sometimes after), shoots decently, and never runs out of energy. He is all you want in a young backup PG, and shows to be another steal for Morey.
During the draft, Morey was trying hard to trade for a high pick to select Thomas Robinson. Allegedly he was offering 2 or 3 of his first round picks to move up. It never happened. Fast forward about half a year later, and Morey gets his hands on Thomas Robinson after something happened behind the scenes who nobody except Sacramento's people and Morey know about. Morey turned a 14th overall pick, a fringe NBA player, and a backup PG into a top 5 pick with ridiculous upside, a veteran who helped lead this team to where they got this season, and a D-league player.
Patrick Patterson is who we think he is, he's an average power forward in the league who can do a little bit of everything, but he's not Thomas Robinson. Thomas Robinson is still a project, but he has other worldly potential. Morey believes he has All-Star potential, and he just might get there if he improves the way Morey thinks he will. That's well worth the risk of giving up Patrick Patterson. He definitely has a better chance than Twill.
The assumed "throw in" of Francisco Garcia was overlooked by most, but as the season drew to the end, he was playing meaningful minutes. His towel waving, three point hitting, 94 feet defense playing self was the veteran influence this young team needed. That alone has made a huge impact on this team, and now he wants to come back and return to Houston. He loves it here and he's loyal, that's worth a lot in this league. Mark this down as another steal for Daryl Morey.
Somehow was able to retain max cap room for this summer.
The Rockets are able to offer Dwight Howard or whichever free agent this summer a max contract (~20.5M), all that is necessary is to drop most ungaurenteed contracts, and trade away a rookie. Teams would kill to be in the position the Rockets are in if they were at the cap, add into the situation that they can max out another superstar, there's no team with a brighter future than Houston.
Other notable good moves:
Traded to Milwaukee: Samuel Dalembert, 14th overall selection,
None of the acquired pieces are still on the roster, but the pick which turned into Jeremy Lamb played a huge role in making the Harden trade happen.
Traded to Toronto: Kyle Lowry
Acquired from Toronto: 2013 protected first round pick, Gary Forbes
Daryl moved Kyle Lowry to Toronto after expressing that he didn't want to play under Kevin Mchale in a public manner. In return, Morey got another piece which he used to make the Harden trade happen. Well worth it, since Lowry was on his way out already.
Amnestied Luis Scola
A sad moment for most Rockets fans, but a move which had to happen to open up minutes for the young power forwards, and clear up cap space for this summer.
Morey's Bad Moves:
Selected Royce White with the 16th overall pick.
I'll keep this short, because I'm sure we're all tired of hearing about him. Here's my thought: If he never suits up in a Rocket uniform, his selection will go down as one of the worst in NBA history. There I said it! Let's move on.
I bundled these two together for a reason, and I already know this is going to stir some people the wrong way. Let me make my argument. So far, Goran Dragic has outperformed Jeremy Lin immensely. Goran leads Lin in points, rebounds, assists, FG%, and turns the ball over less. They get paid roughly the same amount, and for Morey not to bite on Dragic who is the better player between the two was a bad move. Dragic learned to be a point guard behind the best pick and roll point guard ever, who played in arguably the fastest offensive system ever in the NBA. Goran was essentially born to the Rockets point guard, yet Morey failed to extend his contract. This still bothers me, not because Lin is bad (he's not), but because he's just not as good. Every small upgrade matters in this league, and missing out on Dragic and having Lin instead could make a difference in the future.
Traded to Phoenix: Marcus Morris
Acquired from Phoenix: 2013 2nd round pick
I understand the need to free up a roster spot, and minutes for Thomas Robinson who came in at the same time, but to get rid of the 14th overall selection after only a year and a half doesn't make sense to me. Especially when it's only for a second round pick. I don't care how brilliant Morey is with second round picks, Phoenix won this trade, they essentially traded the 32nd pick for the 14th, only a year removed between them. Marcus Morris was playing decently also! He was hitting the corner three and was doing good in his shared minutes with Patrick Patterson. Good for Phoenix for getting this guy, bad for Morey for giving him up for less than he's worth.
Cut Courtney Fortson from the squad.
I'm still upset about this and no matter how much I love Morey, I'll never forgive him for this. Fortson is stuck in Venezuela right now. I didn't know they knew what basketball was in Venezuela. He doesn't deserve this. This is all your fault Morey. /this is only slightly sarcastic and joking
Morey pulled off the unheard of, he essentially flip flopped an average NBA roster into the youngest team with the brightest future in the league while retaining max cap space. It took a lot of moves, lots of failed plans, and lots of luck, but it worked out in the end. Morey has balls guys, this whole year has shown it.
Final Assessment Ujiri vs Morey.
Let it be said first, I think Ujiri did a very good job this year with his team. They had a ridiculous home record, were favorites coming into the playoffs, and was a model for efficient basketball. However, most of the team was already in place (due to Ujiri's great General Managing), and only some moves were needed to be made. Ujiri showed he wasn't afraid to make a deal when he entered the Dwightstakes, but that trade could hamper the future for his team. As well, the Javale Mcgee and Anthony Randolph signings can have serious repercussions in the next years, keeping the Nuggets from contending where they could. Hopefully the good find in Evan Fournier and extending of Andre Miller make up for those signings, but in the end they probably won't. This year might be the best the Nuggets will be for a while and that's a big reason why Ujiri doesn't deserve the award.
Daryl Morey made move after move, and came out of nowhere with his trades and signings. The result in the end? One of the youngest teams in NBA history and a Sun-bright future. Very few general managers can do what Morey did this year, and even fewer have the balls to do it. He put his reputation on the line with this rapid rebuild, it could've easily failed and he would probably be unemployed right now. It didn't though, he traded for James Harden, Thomas Robinson, signed Omer Asik, somehow kept Chandler Parsons, and retained maximum cap room for free agency. He did make some bad moves though, Royce White, not extending Dragic, but those moves won't have the negative effect on the Rockets that the Javale Mcgee contract will have on the Nuggets. Morey beautifully balanced risk and reward, which speaks to his brilliance. What Morey did this year, not only deserves for him to win executive of the year this year, but should be mentioned with the great years that Danny Ainge had when he brought the big-3 together, and when Pat Riley brought Bosh and Lebron to Miami. He figuratively landed on the moon for the first time, he set a new precedent for rebuilding teams around the league by pulling off the impossible. This is why he should win Executive of the Year.
Thank you for reading.