Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey Is No-Brainer Executive of the Year

Marshall Zweig@ihavethewriteContributor IIFebruary 23, 2013

File/Pat Sullivan/Associated Press
File/Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

When an NBA player's shot is falling, we say he's found his shooting touch.

Daryl Morey's shots are falling like Hans Gruber at the end of Die Hard. But in the Houston Rockets' general manager's case, it's more accurate to say he's got the Midas touch.

How else could Daryl Morey have possibly packed so many brilliant moves into one season?

And how many brilliant moves in a season must one man make to win NBA Executive of the Year going away?

The man absolutely blew up the Rockets this summer, making 13 deals involving 31 players and four draft picks. Only small forward Chandler Parsons remained from last year's rotation. Few, if any, picked this team to get over the .500 mark.

Yet here the Rockets sit, a roster of young, energetic, hard-working and seemingly high-character guys in eighth position for the playoffs.

They're fresh off beating one of the East's best teams, the Brooklyn Nets, two nights after beating one of the West's best teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oh, and they notched both victories while shorthanded—because of another brilliant Morey trade.

How do you impress me, Daryl? Let me count the ways—if I can count that high.

I've raved at length in other articles about the daring game of chicken Morey played with the Rockets' starting point guard position prior to the season—a game he won with a brilliantly constructed contract that stymied the mighty New York Knicks and netted the Rockets Jeremy Lin.

I've waxed rhapsodic about Morey's selection of Parsons. To say he was a steal as the 38th overall pick is to call Jesse James a small-time hood.

Granted, that was last season's brilliance.

But as I mentioned, Parsons was the one guy he chose to keep from last year's rotation. He bet on his second round pick and won: the last man standing from last season has this season become one of the league's top 10 small forwards—at a price which makes one want to shout, "There's a sale at Penney's!"

In Parsons' case, Morey gets credit for his inaction rather than his action.

I've commended Morey for the statistical gold he mined in handing a minutes-deprived backup center a big contract and a starting job. The result: Omer Asik is perhaps the leading candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

And finally, I've lauded him for his relentless pursuit of James Harden and his guts in handing him the keys to the castle offensively. Harden is not just one of the league's top scorers—he's one of the very best players in the NBA.

Now Morey has wisely assessed his lack of defensive production at power forward and traded for a woefully underused but massively talented Thomas Robinson, while giving up only players who, Jeremy Lin's heavy heart notwithstanding, won't be missed on the court within a month's passing.

I'm shocked to have heard some critical comments about Robinson.

I watched him play at Kansas, and there is a reason this guy led the nation in double-doubles the year he was drafted. He can not only rebound, but he can score around the rim, too.

Why the Sacramento Kings had him playing so frequently on the perimeter is anybody's guess—heck, why the Kings do anything they do is anybody's guess. But again, Morey wins for picking such an inept franchise to make a trade with.

This deal wasn't as lopsided as the 2008 Pau Gasol trade, but to me, it was reminiscent of it.

And given time—and not much, mind you, just until the midway point of next season—I believe Robinson will be to the power forward position what Parsons is to the small forward position.

As long as he gets the chance, that is.

Morey did all of the above while, incredibly, positioning himself to be almost $20 million under the cap come summer, which means Robinson might be coming off the bench, displaced this summer by a free-agent acquisition like Josh Smith or Dwight Howard.

It's enough to make you forget the name Royce White.

It was a long, strange trip getting here, but Morey's bargain-basement Rockets are the stuff Brad Pitt movies are made of. This is general management almost too efficient and effective to be believed.

This is a job performance which cannot be ignored come NBA awards time.

For those voters who might be reading this article, one last note for your consideration: To pull off the Harden deal, Morey had to have two first-round draft picks to give up.

Where did he get those?

By cleaning up two of his increasingly rare misses.

Morey managed to finagle one in the Kyle Lowry trade, despite Lowry's oh-so-public disgruntlement in Houston, which lowered other teams' perception of him and thus his trade value.

Sure enough, the talented but troubled Lowry has had trouble getting along with others in Toronto, too, so much so that the Raptors couldn't trade him despite a concerted deadline effort.

Morey snagged the other plus Derek Fisher in exchange for Jordan Hill, who was already wearing the bust moniker at the time of the trade. Hill has actually managed to improve his per-36-minute numbers and his PER during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he has difficulty both hitting a jumper and staying healthy.

Without those two quiet masterstrokes, I say the Harden deal never gets made.

I also say Morey better have space on his office mantle come May. He will be the unquestioned Executive of the Year.

And Daryl, while you're at it, dust off two spaces.

Because that Midas touch is gonna result in a shiny gold Larry O'Brien Trophy by the 2014-15 season.


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