Hello, TDS. It’s been a while. I’ve had quite a bit take place lately and a hiatus, brief as it may have been, was necessary. From perusing the comments, reading the latest NBA news, and reading the articles posted here I’ve noticed an alarming trend. This alarming trend is one I am hoping to shed a new perspective on today. Dwight Howard is the most recent addition to the Los Angeles Lakers at the expense of the Orlando Magic. There is no contesting that Orlando dropped the ball on this deal. They took on Al Harrington’s contract, got no salary relief, took on commitments, got protected draft picks from teams that will be pretty good, and didn’t dump their worst money. Now, did this happen in spite of a superior Rockets offer? Most likely.
Did Daryl Morey miss out on Dwight Howard? That question generated debate and zealous advocacy. Something I notice that is missing from that conversation: acceptance that you can critique somebody without having to have a wholly negative view or overall evaluation of them. Please, follow me after the jump to take a realistic look at Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets as they stand, and their current lot. We’ll take a look at a few of the acquisitions Daryl has pulled off, the notable pursuits that didn’t materialize, the drafts, and get a look at where we are now and how that reflects upon Daryl.
Vassilis Spanoulis for Jackie Butler, Luis Scola, and a 2nd round pick. The Rockets swapped a Greek who wanted to go home to a future economic meltdown for their starting power forward (eventually) up until the 2012-2013 season.
Donte Greene, 2009 pick, cash for Ron Artest, Bobby Jackson, Sean Singletary, and Patrick Ewing Jr. Morey formed a "big 3" with Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and Ron Artest. Injuries derailed this dream but what a ride, eh?
Rafer Alston to Orlando, Kyle Lowry and Brian Cook to Houston, and Mike Wilks, Adonal Foyle, a 2009 pick (ORL) to Memphis. Morey pulls the trigger on a deal to land a "point guard he coveted in a previous draft" who turned out to develop pretty well in Houston.
Tracy McGrady and Carl Landry for Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, two picks from the Knicks. Major haul here but this trade illustrates that you can move money, no matter how useless it’s been.
Brad Miller and the 23rd pick for the 20th pick and Johnny Flynn. Houston gave away our greatest point center ever for the draft rights to Donatas Motiejunas and a waiver on Johnny Flynn.
Shane Battier for Hasheem Thabeet and a draft pick. Rumors swirled about a trade with Boston and ultimately we wound up with the sadly untapped potential of Thabeet and a first rounder from Memphis.
Aaron Brooks for Goran Dragic and a first. Brooks wound up in China, suffered an injury off his MIP year, and Dragic played out of his mind for half a year before bolting for Phoenix again.
Johnny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet for Marcus Camby and a 2nd round pick. The Rockets got a back up center who played tough and ultimately got hurt.
Sam Dalembert and the 14th pick to Milwaukee for Shaun Livingston, Jon Breuer, Jon Brockman, and the 12th pick. None too shabby, maneuvering to make an offer.
Chase Budinger for the 18th pick in the draft. Great flip here for a permanent bench SF.
Drafts (Selections made/made to be traded included)
Chuck Hayes (For a song)
Kyle Lowry (4 years/24 million)
Luis Scola (3 years/~28 million)
Steve Francis (2 years/3 million)
Trevor Ariza (5 years/33 million)
Sam Dalembert (2 years/14 million dollars)
Omer Asik (3 years/25 million)
Jeremy Lin (3 years/25 million)
Rick Adelman hired to replace Jeff Van Gundy
Kevin McHale hired to replace Rick Adelman
Carmelo Anthony. He was going to New York, but that doesn’t get rid of the idea of overpaying. We hear constantly that Houston isn’t scared of a rental. When the Rockets were lacking a foundation player there was one available. Sure, we knew where he wanted to go, but whatever. I’m not faulting Morey here but if you’re going to tow the line of wanting a rental, tow the line and do it.
Pau Gasol. Crying over spilled milk here, TDS. People trying to pin the blame on Stern the Commissioner need to let it go. He was acting president of the Hornets and he rejected the trade on the grounds that he didn’t like the deal. Sure enough, a better one materialized. Would you be upset if the Magic owner turned down the Lakers deal for one where the Cavaliers facilitated? Probably not. Morey had the rug pulled out from under him here because of a trade rejection on behalf of another organization but, at the end of the day, the offer wasn’t amped up to get a deal done. We’re manufacturing excuses here to acquit Daryl entirely.
Dwight Howard. This was a debacle and certainly put egg on the face of Orlando. I think here Daryl most likely told Orlando "Two bad contracts, one youngster, some picks, and Martin." Everyone here wants to lament Daryl on this one as though him missing out is a knock on his record. Is it a miss? Definitely. Is it one that reflects poorly upon him? No. This reflects poorly on Orlando and Orlando only. It raises further questions about the CBA that I ranted about a long time ago in previously published columns, but whatever.
The Rockets still lack a foundational player but they have a young core worth getting excited about. This rebuild? If it goes through (trades and what not, you know the type I’m talking about), is (in hindsight) 3 years delayed. In practicality? A year or two delayed. Does that reflect poorly upon Daryl? I would say so. You play the hand you’re dealt with and they did that with Yao. But after the first flip in poker you have to question if building a hand around one card is wise. If after the second turn you realize that card you’re holding onto has a slim chance of panning out you have to consider discarding or folding. The third turn rules out your card? You’re probably in too deep to let the last turn save you. The Rockets held on to the last turn and finally folded. Are we closer now to a direction? Definitely. Thankfully. Hopefully. If we flip our youngsters for a second tier player or two to keep our heads barely above water, back on the treadmill we go.
Ultimately, Daryl’s job, his deals, his draft selections, his signings, and his misses all chalk up in a vacuum to show him as a great GM. When we step back and look at things in a big picture method, we see a lot of inertia. We can fault injuries, and they play a part, but 6 years into a job this needs to be reduced in weight when the injuries are consistent. He’s shown money is no problem in moving a player. He has collected and frustrated players treating as fungible pieces. He has not stepped up offers to seal a deal for a new franchise player in the waning stages of negotiations. At the end of the day, people love to say Daryl Morey has taken a paper clip and turned it into a house but this is overstating it in a major way. Daryl has taken a couple of metallic paper clips and he has wound up with a couple staples and several different colored paper clips. We have diversified our holdings (TPE’s, draft picks, youth, and salary relief) but we haven’t upgraded everything in the grand scheme of things (Three years at consistently .500 ball after years of consistent 50 win ball is not a wholesale improvement, injuries or not). I think it’s time we acknowledge that Daryl is a GM that has increased Houston’s offering portfolio in a huge way, and has made a lot of noise, but he has had far more sizzle than steak. The hero-worship isn’t warranted but just because he’s not seen as a god, doesn’t mean he’s not a good GM. There is a middle ground and we should accept that. Daryl is an adequate steward of the Houston Rockets, not some transcendent GM taking us to the next level.