Daryl Morey has been the general manager of the Houston Rockets since 2007, and things have gone reasonably well in that time. Morey is famously credited for changing the way NBA teams evaluate players, and his use of analytics to flip assets (players) for new, more valuable assets has made him a star in his profession.
What all that has done for the Rockets is less often discussed. Morey pulled off an impressive trade for James Harden in 2012, and the Rockets have two conference-finals losses to the Golden State Warriors since then.
That’s good, and Morey accomplished that without ever subjecting Rockets fans to a tanking season, but it doesn’t prove much beyond that Morey knew he needed a superstar, and acquired one. Everything that’s happened since has been organized around upgrading the other star player next to Harden. It went from Jeremy Lin to Dwight Howard to Chris Paul.
If Morey can find a way to make cap room for LeBron James and Paul George — as Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday suggested he might — it would betray everything Morey stands for to not do it. Even if that means blowing up a 65-win team with one of the best offenses ever.
There are a few good reasons not to do this.
- Groups of human beings don’t just bolt together like smallblock Chevies. The Rockets were one just-kinda-OK shooting night away from beating the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. As presently constructed, they are about as good as NBA teams get. Consider this the “if it ain’t broke …” paragraph.
- LeBron James is old. He turns 34 in December, and his hairline has already proved that he is, in fact, aging, despite all other appearances to the contrary. The decline may be a few years away, or it may be just around the corner, but it’s coming, and when it comes, it comes fast. Whoever signs him is making a bet they can get a championship out of him before this happens.
- The Rockets would turn into a LeBron Team. Every team LeBron plays on revolves around LeBron, and revolving around LeBron is a lot of work. You’ve got to pay close attention to his Instagram feed, you’ve got to have some good scapegoats in place. It’s a whole thing. Does this sound to you like the kind of thing James Harden wants to concern himself with?
- Paul George shoots 43 percent from the field.
But, dangit, did Daryl Morey did make it to two conference finals in 11 years by playing it safe? By building around a core group of players that suffer and succeed together, and grow, year-by-year, into a hardened unit that trusts and believes in itself and each other?
He got to two conference finals in 11 years by chucking rosters at the wall until one stuck, and there’s no reason to stop now. Keep chucking, baby! Sign LeBron. Sign George. Live like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.