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Looking Back at Daryl Morey’s Tenure in Houston

Thursday afternoon, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey announced he would be stepping down as the GM of the Rockets organization. Rafael Stone, the teams’ executive Vice President, will be filling the GM vacancy.

Marking the end of the Morey Era, let’s take a look back at Morey’s tenure in Houston.

The James Harden Trade

On October 27th, 2012, Daryl Morey pulled off one of the greatest trades in NBA history. Morey traded Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and two first-round picks for James Harden.

Photo: Melissa Phillip

This trade would mark a new era in Houston. The Harden Era.

Thanks to Morey’s brilliance, the city of Houston and the Rockets had a new face of its franchise: The Beard. James Harden would become one of the greatest players the league has ever seen, all while wearing a Rockets uniform.

To this day, we’ve been able to witness the greatness of James Harden and all that comes with.

In the eight seasons of James Harden being a Rocket, the Houston Rockets have yet to miss the playoffs, the only team in the league to accomplish that feat in that span. The former league MVP would also help lead the Houston Rockets to the western conference finals twice, unfortunately falling short of the ultimate goal on both occasions; a championship.

Let’s take a quick glance at what James Hardens dominance has brought to Clutch City thus far:

  • 8x All-Star
  • 7x All-NBA (6x 1st Team, 1x 3rd Team)
  • 1x League MVP
  • 5x MVP Finalist
  • 3x Scoring Champ
  • 1x Assist Champ

This trade alone will forever cement Daryl Morey as a Houston legend.

The Pairing of James Harden and Chris Paul

For many Rockets fans, this trade holds a special place in our hearts. Morey sent Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, a protected first round pick and cash considerations in exchange for Chris Paul.

The pairing of James Harden and Chris Pual will likely go down as one of the biggest “What-if’s” in NBA History.

What if CP3 never went down with his infamous hamstring injury late in game five of the WCF? Maybe James Harden and Chris Paul finally reach the promised land and defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe Harden and Paul finally achieve the ultimate goal and solidify their legacy amongst the games’ greatest.

We may never know what the potential outcome of the western conference finals could have been if CP3 never went down in game five. However, what we do know is that the 2018 Rockets team was one win away from reaching the finals after taking a 3-2 series lead against the great Warriors dynasty.

Unfortunately, this duo was never able to accomplish the ultimate goal, however; they were capable of doing something no team in the league had done before. The 2017-2018 Houston Rockets were the only team ever able to challenge a fully healthy Golden State, just falling short by one game.

Moreys’ Imprint in Revolutionizing the Game and Creating one of the Modern 3-point Juggernauts

It’s no secret that Daryl Morey carefully crafted the Rockets lineup into the “Anti-Warriors,” a team that was handpicked for one purpose: to take down the Golden State Warriors. To do so you had to be able to do one thing: shoot threes. This Houston Rockets lineup didn’t just shoot threes, but instead, they dominated the game from the three-point line.

Although this Rockets team will always be overshadowed by the greatness of the Golden State Warriors, one thing is for certain. The Houston Rockets have been the greatest 3-point shooting team in NBA History under Morey.

Although Mike D’Antoni’s offense can be credited to the Rocket’s three-point dominance, we have to give credit where it’s due to Daryl Morey. Without Morey’s analytical brilliance and his ability to pick players to pair with Harden, the Rockets dominance may never have been possible.

To further prove my point, let’s take a look at some of the 3-point records the Rockets have shattered under Morey.

  • Highest Average of 3-PT FGM per game (16.13)
  • Highest Average of 3-PT FG attempts per game (45.38)
  • Most 3-PT FGs attempted in a game (70)
  • Most 3-PT FGs made in a game (27)
  • Most 3-PT FGs made in a single season (1,323)
  • Most 3-PT FGs attempted by a single player (James Harden: 1,028)

To emphasize Houston’s dominance using the three-ball under Morey here’s a list of every major statistical category involving the three that Houston lead the league in by year.

  • 2013-2014: 3PM (779), 3PA (2,179)
  • 2014-2015: 3PM (933), 3PA (2,680)
  • 2016-2017: 3PM (1,181), 3PA (3,306)
  • 2017-2018: 3PM (1,256), 3PA (3,470)
  • 2018-2019: 3PM (1,323), 3PA (3,721)
  • 2019-2020: 3PA (3,261)

As you can see the three-ball has been a prominent piece of the Rocket’s entire offensive scheme. Despite leading the league in almost every major statistical category involving the three for the greater part of the last decade, the Houston Rockets have not once lead the league in 3PT% under Daryl Morey. This, of course, can be heavily credited to the high volume of threes they shoot every game, allowing them to coin the term, “Live by the three, die by the three,” from the general public.

Morey was also a key figure in the Houston Rockets “small-ball” lineup. As of recent years, the Rockets have always run a smaller lineup, however; as of last season, the Houston Rockets took it to the extreme.

Via: ClutchPoints

As you can see in the graphic above, the Houston Rockets attempted to test the waters with something never before seen. The Rocket’s small-ball lineup was the smallest starting lineup in NBA History.

The goal of the small lineup is quite simple. Outscore your opponent.

In theory, the smaller the lineup the more elusive and aggressive you’d be able to be offensively. This is not to take away from their defense of course because surprisingly, the Houston Rockets defense was quite impressive running small. The team was top three in steals per game in the regular season and top three in defensive rating in the postseason.

Reuniting James Harden and Russell Westbrook

After consecutive failed attempts with Harden and CP3 to defeat the Warriors in the postseason, Morey and the Rockets front office decided it was time to make some changes.

In the offseason following the 2018-2019 NBA season, Morey shocked the NBA community with a mega trade, sending Chris Paul and future draft considerations to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 31-year-old former MVP, Russell Westbrook.

Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

James Harden and Russell Westbrook have a rich history together, dating back to their times playing ball as kids together and on the Oklahoma City Thunder. For that reason, Morey believed the pairing of the two childhood friends turned league MVP’s was exactly what the franchise needed to win a championship.

Unfortunately, the duo went on to lose in five games to the future NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.

However, various things affected the Rocket’s play in this series, such as; Russ coming fresh off a quad injury and the mid-series suspension of their best bench player Danuel House Jr. for violating the rules of the bubble.

We also have to remember that the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn could have affected team chemistry.

As it stands, the Russell Westbrook experiment is not yet over. The Rockets could very easily make another run for the title in the following year, given if some additions are made to the roster.

As lots of Rockets fans already want out of the Westbrook experiment, we should definitely take into consideration how well the duo performed this season. Despite only playing half a season together, the duo of Harden and Westbrook was one of the most electrifying duos the league had ever seen. Statistically, they were actually the highest-scoring duo in NBA history, surpassing Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

The two averaged a combined 61.5 PPG. Harden averaged the bulk of those points with 34.4 PPG while Russ averaged a cool 27.2 PPG.

Combined PPG averages of Harden & Russ

Conclusion

Daryl Morey helped pave the way to revolutionize the game of basketball. He blessed rockets fans all around the world with a new face of the franchise with James Harden, which in turn allowed us to witness absolute greatness. Morey also gave the team the resources it needed to properly be able to compete year in and year out, even in the wake of Dynasties.

Morey will always be regarded as a legend in the city of Houston.

For more content on the Houston Rockets follow me on Twitter @houstanhoops

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