- Bradford Doolittle
For five years now, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been a canary in the coal mine for the basketball analytical community. He's the first of his kind, really, as someone who rose through the front office ranks to become a decision-maker for an NBA franchise based on a background rich in analytical acumen. Statistically-oriented hoops fans all over the world have erected little Daryl Morey shrines next to their spreadsheet-addled laptops.
When Morey took over as Houston's general manager on May 10, 2007, it was heralded as the beginning of the Moneyball age in the NBA, an evolution that would re-shape how the league operates. Teams are now using advanced metrics and data in more innovative ways than ever, and an affinity for numbers is becoming an essential part of a basketball operations team. Morey was at the vanguard of this trend. He himself wrote in the Economist, "The basketball world today can be divided between a new wave of objective statistical techniques and traditional methods of visual observation."
Morey has used these methods to do a quality job in Houston, and he's been widely praised during his tenure despite dealing with injuries to franchise players in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. The Rockets have finished better than .500 in each of the three years since Yao was first injured, but they haven't made the playoffs. In fact, they've won just one playoff series since Morey took over as GM.
While Morey has built competitive teams with undervalued talent and remained flexible with Houston's finances, he hasn't been able to escape a general basketball truism: You can't win a championship without a surefire Hall of Famer leading the way (save for a couple of teams, like the '04 Pistons). In the Economist article, Morey wrote, "Looking to the past is indisputably the best way to shift the odds in a forecaster's favor."
He was referring to the surprising development of Jeremy Lin, but the same statement could be made about building a championship team. It's a lesson Morey seems to have taken to heart this summer.
The Houston Rockets are aggressively pursuing Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin, and as Bradford Doolittle writes, the duo could remake Houston into a Western playoff contender.