Houston Rockets: Will the Daryl Morey era be remembered as a success?

Will the Daryl Morey era be remembered as a success for the Houston Rockets?

Losing to the Los Angeles Lakers, who would go on to win the 2020 NBA Championship, in the second round of the NBA playoffs is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s a shame that the Houston Rockets couldn’t find a way to avoid them in the Western Conference playoff bracket, but that’s just how the NBA’s restart bubble unfolded.

With that said, after falling short of an NBA Finals appearance again (especially after the team traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook during the offseason), changes were expected for the Rockets. However, the only real big change that the vast majority thought was coming (from the outside looking in) was parting ways with head coach Mike D’Antoni.

Roughly a month after it was reported that the Rockets and D’Antoni announced they were parting ways, it has now been reported that Houston is also losing general manager Daryl Morey (via ESPN).

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is stepping down, sources told ESPN.

In the aftermath of Houston’s elimination from the NBA’s restart in Orlando, Florida, Morey approached owner Tilman Fertitta with the idea of leaving the job, and the sides quietly worked through an exit agreement to conclude his 13 seasons running the franchise’s basketball operations, sources said.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Rafael Stone is expected to be promoted and take over for Morey.

That said, as the Rockets look to pick up where Morey left off in the next few months (and who knows what that could mean about the team’s current roster construction), you can’t help but wonder how the Morey era will be remembered in Rockets history.

The beginning of the Morey era

Daryl Morey was hired as the team’s general manager in 2007. Throughout his 13 years, the Rockets only missed the playoffs three times and never missed the playoffs after acquiring James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.

Having the foresight to acquire Harden from the Thunder will reign as the billboard move of the Morey era, but there were many other headline deals that he made in an attempt to deliver the Rockets a championship.

A few of the other noteworthy moves that Morey made over the course of his 13-year tenure with the Rockets:

  • Signed Trevor Ariza (2009). 
  • Signed Jeremy Lin (2011).
  • Traded Kyle Lowry to the Raptors (2012). 
  • Signed Patrick Beverley (2013). 
  • Signed Dwight Howard (2013). 
  • Drafted Clint Capela (2014). 
  • Drafted Montrezl Harrell (2012).
  • Hired Mike D’Antoni (2016). 
  • Signed Eric Gordon (2016).
  • Traded for Chris Paul (2017). 
  • Signed Carmelo Anthony (2018). 
  • Traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook (2019). 

Even though the Rockets didn’t win an NBA championship during his 13-year tenure, I don’t think you can blame Daryl Morey for not trying and experimenting throughout his time as the general manager.

Morey tried everything they could and even helped make way for the NBA’s small-ball revolution. Picture this: At one point in his tenure, Morey signed Dwight Howard to be the team’s starting center. Then, six years later, the Rockets, under Morey’s watch, were starting PJ Tucker at the center position against a LeBron James-led team in the NBA playoffs (ironically enough, against Dwight Howard who was now on the Lakers).

Morey built, wasn’t afraid to tear down, and adjusted on the fly time and time again. Whether he had a ton of assets or none at all, it seemed as if Morey always found a way to get the Rockets in the conversation for any valuable player that would emerge in the trade market. He changed the way the league looks at the Rockets, whether that’s now considered a good or bad thing.

Over the 13 years, Morey had only two Western Conference Finals appearances, and maybe if the Golden State Warriors don’t exist, the Rockets win a championship and perhaps we’re having a different conversation right now.

I think something should be said about Morey’s willingness and fearlessness in an age in the NBA where too many executives and head coaches are afraid to deviate too much from the norm. It may not have paid off with an NBA championship for Morey and the Rockets, but as he walks away from the Rockets he likely holds no regrets.

In the end, Daryl Morey will likely be remembered as somewhat of a failure due to the fact that the Rockets didn’t win an NBA championship and is leaving with the roster (and the team’s assets cupboard empty) in limbo. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, though.