Daryl Morey and the LeBron Summer

Darryl Morey is right about a lot of things. Even though the Rockets came up short against the Warriors, Morey still has won. First, James Harden will get his first ever MVP. It was Darryl Morey who plucked Harden out of the Thunder bosom when he was a sixth man; no one thought to give him his own team. Harden has made Morey look like a genius. While it took years for Morey’s math to kick in, he had the right amount of shot makers with an offensively brilliant coach to pull a championship rabbit out the hat. The Rockets were the best team in the league this year, no one came close. He made the Chris Paul gamble work. Really, Morey’s only glaring Rockets failure was a long time ago and Dwight Howard. That is forgotten in all the Houston success.

The beauty of Morey is his honesty. He tells you his truth. He said he was obsessed with the Warriors and why shouldn’t he be obsessed if he wants to beat them?

He knows: the Warriors have iconic three point scorers everywhere while Morey only has one in James Harden . Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Gerald Green, are good shotmakers but not necessarily money shotmakers. The playoffs told us everything we needed to know about stress under pressure and how they perform.

Eric Gordon: Had a couple of big money games but his overall playoff performance was a few hits and a lot of misses. He shot 38% and had a lower ppg than the regular season, a lower offensive rating, a pretty pathetic defensive rating and that ominous game 7 where he missed 10 threes. Two more years, no opt-outs. $13,500,375. $14,057,730.

Trevor Ariza: To say he had a terrible playoffs would be sugarcoating. He was awful. 28% from three, his specialty. Overall, 36% and 8.8 ppg.  Unrestricted Free Agent July 1st.

Ryan Anderson: Did he even play in the playoffs? I barely noticed him. He played in 11 playoff games, averaged 8 minutes and not quite two points. Two more years, no opt-outs. $20,421,546. $21,264,635.

Gerald Green: It was a good experience playing with Chris Paul for the often volatile/emotional/immature Green. But he didn’t bring enough to the Rockets other than a cheap salary. He shot 39% and averaged 6 points. Unrestricted free agent July 1st.

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July 1st and beyond will tell us something.

  1. Is Morey willing to gut the beauty of D’Antoni ball. James Harden and Chris Paul score almost 50 points. But the Rockets, as a team, scored 112.4 points in the regular season, second in the NBA. Add in LeBron’s 28 points and where is the other 35 points coming from?
  2. Ariza is probably gone. Gerald Green and other spare parts may be the replacement.  Three max contacts (Harden, Paul, James) means role players earning the minimum are the consequence. A Big Three and nothing else, kind of like an OKC Thunder prototype, is on the horizon. Yes the Rockets can get LeBron James. No, they can’t keep Clint Capela.

2017-18 Rockets Weaknesses

  • 30th: 2-Point Attempts.
  • 26th: Assists.
  • 24th: Offensive Rebounding.

2017-18 Rockets Strengths

  • 1st: Offensive Rating, 3-Point Attempts
  • 2nd: Scoring
  • 3rd: Free Throw Attempts
  • 5th: Steals
  • 6th: Scoring Defense, Defensive Rating
  • 7th: 3-Point Percentage

The question is can a team ranked near the bottom in assists get to the NBA Finals. Championship teams embrace ball movement as does Mike D’Antoni. But when Chris Paul and his incessant dribbling gets on your team, team assist numbers plummet.  It’s been six years since a NBA team won the championship trophy ranked 20th or below in assists.

(In 2011-12, the Miami Heat were 21st in the league in ball sharing but that isn’t as bad as the Rockets 2017-18 numbers, ranked 26th in assists)

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Daryl Morey often gets a bad rap, even in this the greatest year of his Rockets career. But, Morey is more than his numbers and his binary obsessive nature. He has a deep affection/infatuation for superstars. There is no bigger superstar than LeBron James.

Add LeBron to your team and you are assured of getting to the NBA Finals, something Morey thought he had a good shot at this year and let’s be real, the Rockets played in a game 7 and had a 15 point lead in the first half. The problem always comes down to can you stop the Warriors mercenaries and can you not expend energy and play your A game. The answer for Houston was no and no. So vacation.

The NBA needs Daryl Morey. He is polarizing. Either you believe in analytics or you don’t. Either you think the 3-point shot is a gift from God or you don’t. Either you believe in data sets or you believe in the eye test. The credibility problem with Morey’s attachment to his mathematics is that Houston has never won anything with him in charge. They have lost in the first round of the playoffs four times. They have missed the playoffs three times. Their two Western Conference Finals appearances led to Warriors happiness. So what has he achieved when you take away the entertainment value?

For one, he traded for James Harden and rescued his career arc. He rescued Mike D’Antoni from the depths of irrelevancy. He found a way to yank Chris Paul away from $200 million dollars only to have to pay him that this summer.

The Warriors result wasn’t exactly shocking. In the regular season, teams shot 46.3% against the Rockets defense. In the WCF, the Warriors shot 47.5%. The Rockets defense had devolved.

The best thing the Rockets do is score. But against the Warriors, a good defensive team, they shot 42%. In 5 out of 7 games they didn’t score 100 points. In the not scoring 100 point games, they were 1-4.

Suffering is what the Warriors obsession looks like.  There have been zero positive results.  Only regular season pats on the backs here and there. But regardless of the Rockets loss in the playoffs, waiting in the wings is the kid from Akron. If Morey could get him, people would start to put Morey in the same sentence as Pat Riley and not constantly think of Morey as the architect of a gimmicky offense.

If the Rockets get LeBron…what a dream that would be. But. If the Rockets get LeBron, what is left of the team that has eviscerated the league with their two-headed Paul/Harden monster? Is two years of LeBron worth saying goodbye to 23 year old Clint Capela?

When the Warriors got Durant, they gave up no one. Steph’s friendly second contract made it possible. The Rockets don’t have that luxury. To get LeBron the best team in the West has to be dismantled.

Tearing things apart is not what Morey does best. He’s a builder.