Newly promoted Houston Rockets general manager Rafael Stone has an approach that differs from Daryl Morey, but one that could prove to be just as effective.
Daryl Morey has been the brains of the Houston Rockets operation for the past 13 years, and his tenure was wildly successful, although there are those who would disagree. After Morey landed James Harden in 2012, he pursued some of the biggest names in the league, as he realized the importance of surrounding Harden with a championship-caliber roster.
Morey successfully landed future NBA Hall of Famer Dwight Howard, which was a big deal at the time, as Howard was viewed as the next quintessential superstar with the Los Angeles Lakers, as the late Kobe Bryant was on the back end of his legendary career. But although Morey had free agency wins in the form of Howard, he also swung and missed on Jimmy Butler in the 2019 offseason, as the Houston native opted to instead join the Miami Heat.
Morey’s greatness was exhibited in the form of his trades, as the 2016-17 Executive of the Year was able to compile creative ways to execute deals, which was on display when the Rockets acquired Chris Paul in 2017 and when the Rockets attempted to use Nene as a human trade exception, which would have allowed them to reel in a player worth upto $12.6 million. Although the latter attempted move was legal at the time, the deal was nixed, as it became clear that Morey had discovered a loophole.
But Morey announced that he’ll soon be stepping down, paving the way for newly promoted Rafael Stone to lead the charge for the Rockets’ front office. The transition has left many to wonder what they should expect from Stone, who has gone largely under the radar, despite being with the Rockets for over 15 years, which is actually longer than Morey was with the organization.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon provided a glimpse of what we should expect from Stone, while differentiating Stone’s approach from that of Morey’s.
“Where Morey was more of an ideas guy, Rafael is a communications guy. He’s more of a negotiator and a talker, where Daryl was the guy who could come up with all kinds of crazy ways to put a deal together.
I think Stone is more of a guy who can do the communications necessary to get some deals done.”
How newly promoted Rockets GM Rafael Stone differs from Daryl Morey
Stone played basketball at the collegiate level while attending Williams College, and became an attorney after attending Stanford Law School. Stone was one of 500 attorneys at Dewey Ballantine LLP, which is a major corporate law firm headquartered in New York, and his experience in the courtroom prepared him for his newly promoted role as the Houston Rockets GM.
Stone was essentially described by MacMahon as a master negotiator, which seems fitting based on his legal background. This is also a trait that would seem to come in handy for a general manager, as it would certainly be put to use when negotiating trades and brokering deals across the league.
Although Stone may not instantly be as innovative of an executive as Morey, his 15 years within the organization would seem to serve him well, not to mention the fact that he benefited from Morey’s tutelage. Being able to negotiate with other executives is just as important as being able to creatively construct deals, but that skillset extends beyond just making trades.
Part of the general manager job is to iron out contract extensions for both players and coaches, while also agreeing to terms with incoming personnel, which Stone already has experience with from his time practicing law.
This will especially be beneficial on a team like the Houston Rockets, who consistently lack spending room to operate with. With Stone’s proven ability to negotiate in multiple industries, he likely won’t miss a beat regardless of the lack of excess funds to spend in free agency.
This strength will certainly be useful this offseason, as the Rockets will have to improve their roster while having very little draft capital and/or assets, not to mention very little spending room.
Morey is surely to be missed and can’t be replaced, as he’s one of the best executives in the league, but Stone’s strengths should allow the Rockets to remain contenders and his tenure with the organization should give the fanbase a vote of confidence.