Daryl Morey is considered one of the brightest minds in the NBA, and he managed to turn garbage into gold (whiny, petulant gold and the kind of gold that doesn’t play defense, but still, gold) over the last few years and make the Rockets into a contender. But the Rockets got kicked right in the nuts last week when they swung and missed on Chris Bosh, traded away Jeremy Lin for (less than) nothing, and ended up letting Chandler Parsons go to the Mavericks — and Morey is acting all salty about it.
The biggest tangible loss for the Rockets is Parsons, who would have made less than $1 million in 2014-15 had the team picked up his option, and instead signed a three year, $46 million dollar deal with the Mavs that Houston didn’t match despite indicating that they would. Once Bosh re-signed with Miami, Houston felt they couldn’t tie up that much money in a “non-star” like Parsons and let him walk.
Here’s Morey’s explanation for how he allowed one of his core pieces to walk away, via SportsTalk 790 AM:
“If you want to win the title, you have to be the team that finds the Chandler Parsons, not the ones that gives that Chandler Parsons the max contract. You look at the Spurs… they’re the ones that find guys… not the ones that go out and chases guys that other people find.
We couldn’t turn a great decision, which is obviously drafting Parsons at 38 a couple years ago — and of course if we hadn’t made that great decision no one would be talking about anything right now — but we can’t turn that great decision into a bad decision by matching what contract he got… Our odds of winning the title are now higher by not matching.”
There are a couple of things wrong with this explanation.
1. The Mavs did to the Rockets what the Rockets have been doing for years.
Morey is willing to take on players at above-value contracts that their former teams wouldn’t pay. He pried Omer Asik from the Bulls for three years, $25 million (and $15 million in the final year), a price Chicago was unwilling to match. He got Lin for three years, $25 million (and $15 million in the final year), a price New York was unwilling to match. Asik was a second round pick by Portland. Lin was undrafted.
Morey was able to unload both of those contracts before their poison pill final year, but for what? The Lin trade cost the team a first-round pick. They got another pick back in the Asik trade, but couldn’t use the extra space to sign Bosh and instead settled for Trevor Ariza. The end result is a wash, which in the Western Conference is as good as step backwards. This team didn’t improve and lost a key piece in Parsons, who they could have paid pennies for this year.
2. The Rockets built their team in free agency and trades, not via the draft.
The Rockets’ two best players, Dwight Howard and James Harden, were acquired by flipping assets to either free up cap space or trade in a package. I’d say that qualifies as chasing guys that other people find (let’s not forget Asik or Lin either, both of whom were “found” by other teams — even though Lin started as a Rocket). Almost everyone agrees that the Thunder lost the Harden trade, because you trade four quarter for a dollar every time.
Morey called Parsons’ new deal “untradeable,” which is probably why he didn’t want to match it. But now the Mavericks have a good, young player in Parsons, and the Rockets have little to show for it. They strengthened a rival and weakened their own roster, because Morey got beat at doing what he does best: signing players for amounts no one is willing to go pay. When you do that, sometimes you hit a home run. Other times, you strike out swinging. The Rockets struck out.
Saying that re-signing Chandler Parsons would have been a losing move insulted Parsons and doesn’t portend the long-term success Morey covets. Flexibility matters, but not at the expense of capitalizing on good opportunities. Morey himself showed that almost no contract is untradeable at the right price, but was unable to see that when it was his team and his players in the crosshairs. There is no “addition by subtraction” here. The teams that find the Chandler Parsons, develop them, keep them in their system and don’t let them walk away are the winners — not the ones who keep chasing pipe dreams.
Saying “I fucked up” and/or “We got played” isn’t good for one’s ego or for the team’s public relations, but it would have been the most honest thing for Morey to say here.
Photo via Getty