As a sports fan, getting in on something great early on is a beautiful thing. Sports in general, and especially the NBA, exist within a life cycle of sorts. Rebuilding, competing, winning—rinse and repeat. For the Houston Rockets, however, the past few years have been somewhere closer to calamity rather than contention.
Since their current general manager Daryl Morey took the helm back in 2007, the Rockets have only won a single playoff series, and since 2009, they’ve been in the lottery three consecutive times.
Despite the correlation, Morey being GM isn’t entirely the cause for these troubling times.
The Rockets dealt with the awkward transition of going from the competition phase of the proverbial “NBA Life Cycle” right back to square one—especially the frustrating 2009-10 season in which their franchise foundation Yao Ming was gone with chronic foot problems.
The decline of Tracy MacGrady was another factor, and sadly for the Rockets, injuries and age eventually caught up with them.
Despite the frustrating past, the future is bright for Houston, and in many ways they can thank their oft-criticized GM. They must also remember, however, that in the NBA, and especially for a stats guy like Morey, numbers are what he values most, not necessarily personnel on a personal level.
Sure, Daryl Morey brought in key free agents like Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, and pulled off the shocking trade that brought reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to Houston, but in all honesty, none of the Rockets’ beloved youngsters are impervious to being moved or cut for the sake of financial flexibility in the long run.
Remember, this was a team that just last season barely missed playoff contention, and Morey essentially stripped the entire roster down to bare bones, so who knows what this roster will look like down the road.
Morey did an excellent job this season acquiring pieces that could win now, but it remains to be seen if Morey is truly going to cultivate this talent in the long term, or if he’s developing his pieces for potential trade bait or simply let players walk for cap space.
Now as far as what Morey is probably thinking, the latter is much more likely. It’s a no-brainer that a method of staying competitive is the ability to acquire free agents, but it can’t be achieved without having the room to do so. This is especially true when examining Jeremy Lin’s whopping contract worth almost $25 million.
What makes Lin’s poison pill contract beneficial for the Rockets is rather than it being a lengthy contract that paid less per year, it expedites the completion of his contract by the third year. This means that once it concludes, Houston would have the option of having a ton of room in a year where the likes of Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo will be on the free agent market (although Love has a player option).
Patrick Patterson is another talented piece with a ton of potential, but again, the question remains: Will Morey match any offers for Patterson in 2014 (he’ll be a restricted free agent), or will he let him walk?
Chandler Parsons will probably figure in Morey’s long-term equation (remember, he survived the previous makeover Morey gave this roster), but again, no one can say for certain.
For Morey, it’s a troubling quandary. Do you risk passing up on big free agents to develop your current guys into stars, or do you hedge your bet and get a sure thing, losing players that could get exponentially greater than they already are?
Considering Morey is as analytical as they come, you can expect to see him to rely on statistical algorithms to help determine the best on-court results, although not everyone is a fan of such thinking.
Regardless of whether you approve of Moneyball style NBA GMs like Morey, the fact remains that the Rockets have a solid core for the future. Although we’re only part way through the season, anyone who has seen this team play is aware of the immense talent and collective potential they have.
It all depends on whether or not Morey will hang on to the pieces he has, and to find out, we’ll just have to wait and see, but if last season was any indication, Morey probably has another big move hidden up his sleeve.