When Daryl Morey was hired recently as the 76ers president of basketball operations, he took over a situation that looked vaguely familiar.
In his previous job, Morey was promoted from assistant general manager to general manager of the Houston Rockets on May 10, 2007. He spent 13 seasons as general manager before being hired by the Sixers.
There are plenty of similarities between that Rockets team of 2007-2008 that Morey inherited and his new squad in Philadelphia.
Here are some of them:
Both teams were led by two All-Stars. The Rockets' pair, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, were a little older than the Sixers’ duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Yao was 27 in September 2007. He had been an All-Star the previous five seasons and went on to earn three more All-Star berths in the next four years.
McGrady entered the season 28 years old and he had been an All-Star each of the seven previous years. He never made another All-Star team but did average 21 points per game in 2007-2008.
Simmons, 24, is a two-time All-Star and Embiid, 26, is a three-time selection.
“I see the similarities, including a dominant big in Yao Ming vs. Joel, and also ownership in about their 10th year of ownership,” Morey said in an email response.
That brings us to the ownership situation. As Morey stated, both teams offered seasoned ownership groups. Houston was owned by Leslie Alexander, who bought the team in 1993 and sold it in 2017. The NBA approved the sale of the Sixers to managing partner Josh Harris on July 11, 2011.
In Morey’s first year as GM in Houston and now in his first season in Philadelphia, he is working with a new veteran coach. Both new coaches had three previous NBA stops and each was highly successful before going to their fourth team.
Morey’s first coaching hire was Rick Adelman, who replaced Jeff Van Gundy in Houston. Adelman was 752-481 (.609) in his three stops before Houston. Rivers, whose hiring preceded Morey’s, is 943-681 (.581).
Both the Rockets of 2006-2007 and the Sixers of last season had winning records. Houston was 52-30 for a .634 winning percentage. The Sixers, in the shortened COVID-19 season, were 43-30 (.589).
Both teams lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers were swept in four games by the Boston Celtics. The Rockets lost in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in seven games to the Utah Jazz.
Besides Simmons and Embiid, Morey has inherited a roster that is a good combination of veterans with five or more years experience, such as Al Horford, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson and younger players such as Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, and Shake Milton.
Houston had players such as Rafer Alston, Juwan Howard, and Luther Head.
“I would say the biggest difference is the roster past the two stars,” Morey said. “I think Harris/Horford/Richardson/Korkmaz/Thybulle/Milton are ahead of the Rockets' Howard/Alston//Head/ supporting cast.”
While Howard was on the team when Morey was named GM, he became part of Morey’s first trade that June, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Mike James and Justin Reed.
As for the others, Alston averaged 13.1 points in 2007-2008. Head averaged 7.6 points. One player not mentioned, but who was on the team when Morey became GM, was Shane Battier, who averaged 9.3 points in 2007-2008.
According to Morey, the Sixers’ talent is deeper than that of the 2007-2008 Houston team. The fact that the Sixers' two All-Stars are younger is significant.
So overall, he inherits a more talented team than the one in Houston.
Morey made some other key additions during his first season as Houston’s GM, including acquiring Luis Scola from San Antonio in July 2007. Scola averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds that season.
Houston ended up 55-27 and again lost in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs to Utah, this time in six games.