This is becoming a real habit.
Giving Daryl Morey Executive of the year has been a foregone conclusion since about the first week of the season, when it became apparent that James Harden was indeed a franchise player capable of leading the youngest roster in the NBA to a winning record in the brutal Western Conference. Well, Morey is still at it, seemingly looking to put together the greatest GM season in history.
Remember where he was last summer before the Harden deal? Poor Daryl was tying himself in knots trying to scoop up Dwight Howard, by any means necessary. By the time the smoke had cleared, he had essentially ditched half his team trying to stockpile enough draft picks and assets to goad Orlando into making the deal, only to come up short when the Magic where able to find what they wanted elsewhere. Of course, Morey’s phone finally rang on the eve of the season, and he was able to snag James Harden from Oklahoma without giving up nearly what he would have had to for Dwight.
As great as the Harden trade has proven to be, it might end up being all about the move they didn’t make.
Of course, somewhere in between these two stories was last years’ draft, and at that time, Morey was dangling his three first round picks for a chance to move into the lottery, either for a player he coveted or one he could sell to someone else. Alas, nobody bit, and he went on to select Terrence Jones, Royce White and Jeremy Lamb, all of whom have either been traded already or have yet to make even a minor impact on the Rockets.
Shit, I need to digress for a minute.
I’ve spent the last few years prattling on about the new Luxury tax that kicks in next year, and how the league is going to be a completely different place for the foreseeable future. In fact, I wrote about it again this week. The short and sweet version of it is, for almost every franchise the days of spending over the luxury tax are a thing of the past, and the new model is going to be all about controlling costs, securing cheap labor and not giving out stupid contracts.
If you wanna see the blueprint for this, just take a look at what Morey has done the last few years. Look at how he’s stockpiled first round picks and either kept them or parlayed them into better players. Feast your eyes on the Rockets’ payroll situation. Nobody makes more than 6 million this year. Look at what he’s done with these draft picks. Almost every last one of them has turned into a valuable NBA player, from Chase Budinger to Chandler Parsons to Patrick Patterson and so on. This is a team that is loaded with young prospects, solid up-and-comers and a bonafide superstar who is only 23 years old, and they’ve done all of this while staying almost twenty million dollars under the luxury tax.
Brilliant. Truly brilliant.
So, while the deadline was fast approaching and every medit outlet was busy regurgitating all of the same Josh Smith/Dwight Howard/Kevin Garnett trade rumors ad nauseam, ain’t it amazing that Morey pulled off a trade that nobody had heard one single peep about? Not sure if that fact speaks to his genius or the beleaguered state of modern”journalism”, but it’s pretty amusing anyway you slice it.
Turns out, even with all the wheeling and dealing he’s done in the last few months, he still had a stockpile of forwards, so much so that he could trade his starting PF (and the main backup) for a chance at one of the lottery picks he so desperately wanted last year. Yep, all he had to do was wait five months for Sacramento to get fidgety and give up on Thomas Robinson, and regardless of whether you believe this move was a cost-cutting one for The Kings, giving up the 5th pick of the draft before the end of his first season is at best a panic move and at worst, an utterly brain-dead decision.
The team that has hastily assembled a solid young core of James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik now gets 22 year old Thomas Robinson, a 6’10 Forward full of athletic promise who will most likely thrive in Houston’s Helter Skelter offense after spending his first five months as a pro stuck on a nowhere team, playing behind guys with no future. If Robinson is a hit in Houston, they will have gotten a lottery pick for two late first rounders. Even if he doesn’t, they gave up two serviceable players with limited upside for the chance at a guy with star potential, and a quick scan of the Rocket roster shows that they have not one or two or even three, but four guys waiting for their turn at power forward, all of whom show varying degrees of promise. I’m certainly not implying that Royce White, Donatas Motiejunas, Craig Smith and Terrance Jones are all gonna pan out, but you can be certain that at least one or two of them will, which means Morey will have given up dispensable guys for a chance to land a franchise cornerstone.
Once again, Daryl Morey rides off into the sunset…with your assets.
And yes, after all the loud talking, that’s pretty much all that happened at the trade deadline. The only other trade of any import was the deal that sent Orlando’s JJ Redick to Milwaukee for…a an expiring contract (Beno Udrih) and Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb, a couple kids who really haven’t done anything at this level just yet. Now, I’m a big fan of what GM Rob Hennigan ended up getting in the Dwight Howard deal because I feel like he’s following the Morey blueprint of stockpiling young players and draft picks. That said, I think there should have been a better deal out there for a player of Redick’s gifts.
Alas, if you were hoping for some deadline excitement you’ll have to wait for this summer. For now, the new luxury tax has put the fear of god in everyone.
Oh, and nobody can be certain about this just yet, but Daryl Morey’s 2013 might end up as a one of the greatest executive seasons in NBA history. Certainly looks that way to me. Dude is in the fucking zone right now, and if anyone can build a title team in a small market without winning the lottery, he might be the guy.