Houston GM Daryl Morey’s Executive of the Year Award win is deserved acclamation for more recent moves, but years of making the right decisions are what got him and the rest of the front office here.
Daryl Morey barraged his front office with appreciation as he accepted the 2017-2018 NBA Executive of the Year Award on the 25th, making it known that the honor shouldn’t rest solely on his mantel, and that it is an “organizational award.”
Morey and the rest of Houston’s front office are deserving recipients of this years’ award, which was granted to them largely as recognition of their acquisition of nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul last summer. But what truly brought the front office and the team to the award-win has been years of groundwork dating back to Houston’s 2012 addition of shooting guard James Harden.
In October of that year, The Oklahoma City Thunder were negotiating a contract extension with the then-reigning Sixth Man of the Year, who was seeking a max contract that Oklahoma City was reluctant to pay.
OKC was in a sort of corner with the deadline for Harden’s extension on the horizon. If they didn’t come to terms on an extension before then, Harden would enter restricted free agency that summer where several teams, including Houston, were reported to be open to paying him the maximum, which the Thunder would then have to match to retain him.
Enter Daryl Morey and the Rocket’s front office, armed with an enticing-enough trade offer of 28-year-old Kevin Martin, newly drafted Jeremy Lamb and future draft picks. The Thunder would agree to the trade, one they would regret for the foreseeable future (and be reminded of by Twitter users that would go back and retweet tweets announcing the trade for years to come). Houston would gain the player that would become their organization’s centerpiece and number-one option. His development into an MVP-caliber player would prove the trade to be one of the best moves of Morey’s career.
Y! Sources: After contract talks break down, OKC trades James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, picks. http://t.co/Rc5GpnE8
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 28, 2012
Fast forward to the summer of 2016. Houston was fresh off of a four-game defeat in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, and off of a disappointing season in all.
Dwight Howard‘s tenure playing center for the Rockets had soured as the team refused to play post-centric basketball. Kevin McHale, who’d coached the team for the last four years, was fired 11 games into the season after Houston struggled badly out of the gate. The team had actually struggled so badly that some fans had hoped more to miss the playoffs and get a better first round draft pick than to make them and lose early on.
So with Houston running in place under interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, a coach hiring would be the front office’s biggest decision of the off-season.
Enter Mike D’Antoni, armed with a dope mustache and some of the best offensive knowledge that any coach in league history could offer. D’Antoni, who spent the season prior as an associate head coach in Philadelphia, would encounter negative reviews as the Rockets’ new hire (like this one from Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle). He also served as the metaphorical final nail in the coffin that was Howard’s exit from the team in free agency (the two had a well documented negative history together with the the Lakers).
But D’Antoni would prove to be the right choice for Houston, employing an offensive scheme that, with the incorporation of newly acquired free agents Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Nene, would turn the Rockets into one of the best offensive teams of all time, with Harden manning the point guard position.
And letting Howard go turned out to be the best thing thing Houston could have done, as it gave rise to Clint Capela‘s emergence as a top tier center in the league and a much better fit in the style of play
So all of that; the Harden trade, heading in the right direction in terms of play-style with MDA, signing the right free agents to fit that style, and every other move made along the way, brought them to an opportunity to take their squad to the next level with the Chris Paul sign-and-trade. Without Harden, there is not Chris Paul in Houston. Without the success resulting from these moves, there is no Chris Paul in Houston.
It’s important to realize about this award not only that it is organizational and not solely Morey’s, but that it is also not purely resulting from only moves made over the last year, but from a long standing trend of Houston’s front office making the best moves for their roster. They have the kind of track record that can help fans feel confident about the team’s future, and the kind that puts a front office among the best in the league. They’re the kind to jump at an opportunity to improve the team, à la the Harden trade. And there tends to be more opportunity for teams when they’re making the right decisions, à la the Paul trade.
Whether or not Houston gets a chance to land a LeBron James or Paul George level free agent this summer, all can rest assured that the award-winning Morey and staff will do what is best for the organization and its fans’ collective sanity.