For the past couple of years, I’ve thought that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had been playing NBA 2k’s franchise mode in real life. If a player didn’t fit, or if a better asset was available, a deal was made as quick and simple as the push of a button. Flexibility, player upside, salaries, and trade values were the top priority for the past 4 or 5 seasons rather than focusing on subtlety improving the roster to maintain team chemistry and camaraderie.
Once Morey felt that a player hit his ceiling, a thank you note was sent to them stating that their services were no longer required. Instead, they were turned into extra draft picks, younger players, or players with expiring contracts.
Granted, the main reason for playing 4 years of musical chairs was the result that the Rockets were left with nobody to build around after Yao Ming’s left foot expired, and when the roster is filled with players of the same talent and similar games, everybody becomes expendable.
But times are changing now that Morey landed both James Harden and Dwight Howard in a span of 9 months. Veteran free agents find the Rockets now attractable and are agreeing to take the minimum salary to come to Houston, and old faces are choosing to come back to the Rockets organization.
Aaron Brooks, who won the NBA’s Most Improved Player as the starting point guard for the Rockets just 3 seasons ago, had no problem coming back for $1 million as possibly the 3rd string point guard. Francisco Garcia’s $6-plus million option was declined by the Rockets earlier in the summer, but also decided to rejoin for about $5 million cheaper than his option.
And so the scene has shifted, the Rockets have changed from sellers to buyers. No longer are the days of stockpiling assets as trade chips, and no longer are the days of hoping for mediocrity in the Western Conference.
Morey finally has want he has worked for in the past 4 years: 2 superstar players to build around with an enticing environment for productive veterans to join on board. Oh and don’t forget, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, and Greg Smith are pretty darn good young role players already in place, with Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas on the footsteps.
From here on out, Morey’s fate as Rockets GM will depend on next season and on. Some people’s definition of a successful GM stems from what moves and changes they make to get their respective teams out of the dumps. But an excellent GM is judged by what he does with a team that 20 other GMs would die to want to take over.
The Rockets are a team that is on that level now, and Morey can finally execute his plan of building a championship team. It’s time for all of us to sit back and enjoy the show, because it has been worth the wait.