When talk of advanced analytics and stockpiling assets and building your team the right way comes up, locally it’s usually about Sam Hinkie and the way we hope things shake out. But back in Hinkie’s former home of Houston, the discussion centers on Daryl Morey, the GM of the Rockets and Hinkie’s mentor. Just a search of their names together brings up “the proper way to stockpile assets” and using the “get-a-superstar playbook.” They’ve even co-authored a Grantland piece about the similarities and differences between their approach and the so-called Moneyball way of doing it.
For a Sixers fan who looks at the team we have now and the team the Houston Rockets have, it can be exciting to imagine that as the future of our team. But there are those that say, “what if it’s not?” And still others, after a rough off-season thus far for the Rockets, who warn, “what if it is?” The Rockets haven’t finished higher than fourth in their conference under Morey.
“Within the vast coverage of Morey’s tenure, one quickly identifies a trend: the headlines are bold; the results not as much. Each piece is as formulaic as a clichéd bar joke; the terms brilliance, risk, forward-thinking, and advanced are bandied about casually, as if they are implicitly true, but without much substance to support them. The anecdotes drift into territory that is as absurd as it is counterintuitive.”
Then there’s the reluctance to criticize someone using advanced metrics – understandable, since advanced metrics are still very foreign to many people – even when their “metrics” are the same ones you use at home:
“Details that would subject other GMs to widespread ridicule improbably serve to enhance Morey’s legend. A sports site retweets confirmation that Morey browses internet messageboards for draft and trade suggestions, and frames that in the context of him being visionary. Sports Illustrated advertises an exclusive glimpse of Morey’s 1994 fantasy basketball team; A Los Angeles Times puff piece strikes a tone of reverence as it spells out Morey’s utilization of video games in evaluating prospective free agents (!).
“‘Say, if you’re thinking about acquiring Ron Artest …,’ Morey said from Hawaii, where he was evaluating talent in person at the Maui Classic college tournament. “On the game, you can see how adding Artest can change the dynamic of your team. You can program it to run offensive sets with Artest and any combination of your players.'”
We’ve all done that. Hell, I downloaded a bootleg draft class and am playing NBA2k14 with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric on the Sixers right now. Are there any GM openings for me?
Here are some of Morey’s moves that Williams thought were worth pointing out:
“A close examination of Morey’s signings and trades raises as much skepticism as reason for praise: when the Rockets were forward-heavy and in need of a point guard, he traded Kyle Lowry and let Goran Dragic leave, only to replace them with an overpaid Jeremy Lin — a player the Rockets had on their roster the season before, at league minimum salary, before they waived him. He traded Nicolas Batum — a do-it-all small forward who might be an even better piece on a title contender than Parsons — for Joey Dorsey and a draft pick that became Sam Young. He overpaid the offensively limited Omer Asik, then gave max money to Dwight Howard, whose presence made Asik redundant.”
And now Asik and Lin are both gone as well. It’s worth mentioning that nowhere in the piece does Williams mention Hinkie. Their connections are everywhere else, though. In a 2012 SB Nation piece defending Morey, written in response to an Inquirer article that praised the 76ers for selecting Tony DiLeo as their new GM over Hinkie (that happened), a Rockets blogger said, “it’s perfectly reasonable to attack Morey for waiting too long to blow up the roster.” Patience seems to be a theme, but it hasn’t yet paid off for Morey.
Morey, while doing relatively little and letting some future stars go (Lowry, Goran Dragic, Nicholas Batum), has had a really rough off-season. Before that, things were alright, and if this off-season wasn’t a total failure for the Rockets, we wouldn’t even be talking about Daryl Morey. But we are, since Hinkie learned all there was to know about GM-ing from him.
I still believe in Hinkie, and I think I will until he gives me reason not to. And one thing is for sure: he cannot be accused of waiting too long to blow up the team, because the thing was a pile of rubble when he got here. Now it’s a pile of assets. We just have to be patient.