Why Daryl Morey is the reason the Rockets are awful

N.B. Lindberg
Orlando Magic v Houston Rockets
Orlando Magic v Houston Rockets / Tim Warner/GettyImages
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Daryl Morey is the reason the Rockets stink in 2023

The Rockets are a mess in 2023 because Daryl Morey tried his absolute best to build a champion. He offloaded picks and young players and made massive win-now gambles. It almost worked, but when it came time to pay the bill, it was clear the Rockets were headed for dark days. The franchise had few future assets, one tradeable piece in James Harden and two albatross contracts in Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon. In many respects, the Rockets post-Morey were an expansion franchise that somehow owed future first-round picks to another organization. 

When Rafael Stone took over the Rockets, he wasn’t starting from scratch. He was starting from beneath that. To offset the disastrous Westbrook trade, he prioritized draft compensation in the James Harden trade. While that meant the Rockets wouldn’t be able to make a quick turnaround, it did protect them from being an awful team without any incoming talent through the draft. 

Unfortunately, he was still saddled with two horrible contracts. The Westbrook contract, he was only able to offload for another horrible contract in John Wall, and Eric Gordon still remains a Rocket to this day. The Rockets entered their rebuild with no financial flexibility, few draft picks, and no up-and-coming talent to speak of. The past three seasons have been painful because instead of rebuilding the roster, the front office has slowly been trying to undo the mess accumulated over the previous decade. 

The Rockets are about to turn the corner

Even knowing the eventual outcome, I, as Daryl Morey did for Hong Kong and democracy, stand by his decisions. He had a top-three player in the world in his prime and wanted to do everything imaginable to build a championship team. The cost was that following their run as a contender, they would have to spend multiple seasons cleaning up the mess. That’s what the last three seasons of Rockets’ basketball have been, but light is on the horizon. 

Cap space will finally be available, bad contracts are gone, young players have finally arrived, with more on their way, and the next nucleus for a Rockets’ contender is forming. Organizations go through cycles. Daryl Morey understood that and didn’t want to waste a championship window worrying if the 2023 Rockets were going to be the worst team in the league. 

To their credit, the Rockets have been extremely aggressive in how they handle the natural competitive cycles an NBA organization goes through. They were hyper-aggressive in making every last upgrade when the team was great, and they have been hyper-aggressive in restocking their draft war chest and resetting their financial commitments when the rebuild was afoot. 

The Rockets, true to their name, are either racing toward the stars or crashing and burning. The extremes of the two are incredibly jarring right next to each other, but an aversion to half-measures is prudent. Daryl Morey took no half-measures in the quest for a championship, and Rafael Stone has taken no half-measures as he resets the franchise for its next ascent. I’m not sure when the next great Rockets team will be here, but when it arrives, I do hope they take the Daryl Morey approach and go all in. 

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