New 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is known for his expertise in analytics, but most of all, he is not afraid to make a deal.
During his 13 seasons as general manager of the Houston Rockets, Morey was the king of transactions. According to fivethirtyeight.com, he made 77 trades.
When a person makes that many trades, there will be hits and misses. Morey often engineered trades that included more than two teams. He has had nine three-team trades and another three that included four teams.
During his 13 years, Houston went to the playoffs 10 times, including the last eight seasons, the longest current NBA streak. The Rockets advanced to the Western Conference finals twice. He had three coaches during his time (Rick Adelman, Kevin McHale, and Mike D’Antoni).
The Rockets posted winning records in all 13 seasons and won 50 or more games seven times.
Here are the best and worst of those deals, including free-agent signings and draft choices.
The top trade
Transaction: On Oct. 27, 2012, Houston traded Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, a 2013 first-round draft pick (Steven Adams was later selected), a 2013 second-round draft pick (Álex Abrines was later selected), and a 2014 first-round draft pick (Mitch McGary was later selected) to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, James Harden, and Lazar Hayward.
Summary: Harden was the key, and he continues to be one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA. He was the NBA scoring champ in each of the last three years. During his eight seasons in Houston, the Rockets have made the playoffs every year, the NBA’s current longest streak. The Rockets have been to the Western Conference finals twice in that span. Harden has been an All-Star in each of his eight seasons in Houston. Whether a team can win an NBA title with Harden as the focal point remains to be seen, but he was Morey’s best addition.
The worst trade
The transaction: On July 11, 2012, Houston traded Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a 2013 first-round pick. That first-round pick was later sent to Oklahoma City as part of the Harden trade, so there was some value.
Summary: Trading Lowry was a mistake, even if he reportedly clashed with McHale. During his final season in Houston, Lowry averaged a career-high 14.3 points along with 6.6 assists. This was Lowry’s sixth season and the best of his career to date. He blossomed in Toronto and has been an All-Star for six consecutive years, while helping the franchise earn its first NBA title in 2018-19. It must be noted that acquiring Lowry from Memphis in a three-team deal in February 2009 was one of Morey’s better deals.
Trade that worked for both teams
Transaction: On June 28, 2017, Houston traded Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer, $661,00-0 in cash and a 2018 first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Chris Paul.
Summary: Paul played only two seasons for Houston, but the Rockets advanced to the Western Conference finals in 2018 and had a 3-2 lead over Golden State, but Paul suffered a hamstring injury in Game 5. Paul missed the rest of the series, which the Warriors won in seven games. The Rockets were eliminated in six games during the Western Conference semifinals by Golden State the following year. In this tight series, no game was won by more than six points.
Paul played well in his two seasons but was hampered by injuries, playing just 58 regular-season games each year. Despite the success, Paul and Harden didn’t jell. Paul was traded to Oklahoma City. As for the Clippers' haul, Williams was named NBA sixth man of the year in 2018 and 2019, and Harrell earned the honor this past season.
Yet to be determined
Transaction: On July 16, 2019, Houston traded Paul and future first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and the right to swap first-rounders in 2021 and 2025, for Russell Westbrook. Some of the draft picks came with protections.
Summary: Paul became an All-Star this past season for the first time since 2016. Westbrook, saddled by injury and contracting COVID-19 before the playoffs, shot poorly in eight playoffs games (24.2% from three, 53.1% from the free-throw line). Westbrook still was an All-Star this past season. Losing the future first-round picks could make this a major victory for Oklahoma City, but after one year, the winner of this trade is still to be determined.
Top free-agent signings
Transaction: Eric Gordon was signed to a four-year, $53 million contract in 2016. Gordon was then signed to another extension through the 2023-24 season.
Summary: The first signing was good for Houston. In four seasons with Houston, Gordon averaged 16.6 points, and more important, shot 37% from three-point range. Gordon’s durability is a problem, and his three-point shooting declined this past season (.322 in the playoffs, .317 in the regular season). Whether the extension was a good move remains to be seen.
Transaction: In July 2017, the Rockets signed P.J. Tucker to a four-year, $32 million deal.
Summary: This was one of the most underrated signings. In his first three years, the 6-foot-5 Tucker has been an accomplished defender and great team player and hasn’t missed a game for the Rockets.
Deals that didn’t work well
Transaction: The Rockets signed restricted free-agent center Omer Asik to a three-year, $25 million contract in July 2012.
Summary: The year before, with the Chicago Bulls, Asik averaged 3.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 14.3 minutes. During his first season in Houston, he averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. He averaged 5.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game the next season. After only two seasons, he was sent to the New Orleans Pelicans in a three-team deal.
Transaction: In July 2016, the Rockets signed Ryan Anderson to a four-year, $80 million contract.
Summary: After two seasons in Houston, Anderson was traded to Phoenix. He averaged 11.6 points and shot 39.6% from beyond the arc.
On the fence
Transaction:Dwight Howard, among the top players in the league, signed a four-year contract in July 2013 but opted out of the final year. He earned $64.3 million during his three seasons in Houston.
Summary: Howard made his eighth and final All-Star team during his first year in Houston. Over the next two seasons, he averaged 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds. During his second season in Houston, the Rockets advanced to the Western Conference finals, and Howard was a big part of the team, so that counts for something. The Rockets were eliminated in the first round the other two years.
Best draft choices
Houston, as a perennial playoff team, often drafted lower in the first round.
Aaron Brooks: He was Morey’s initial first-round pick, in 2007. Brooks was the No. 26 selection. By his third season in Houston, he averaged 19.2 points. He played 3½ seasons in his first stint with Houston and then was traded to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. (Dragic played only 1½ years in Houston before signing as a free agent with Phoenix, where his career took off).
Clint Capela: He was picked 25th overall in 2014. After struggling in his first two seasons, he averaged 14.3 points and 11.1 rebounds in his next four years before being dealt to the Atlanta Hawks in February.
Montrezl Harrell: Selected in the second round (32nd overall) in 2015, Harrell, as previously mentioned, was used in the trade for Paul and now is a desired free agent. Harrell played only two seasons in Houston but had shown improvement. Having just completed his fifth season, he has increased his scoring average each season.
Worst draft choices
Marcus Morris: While Philadelphia’s Morris has turned into a successful NBA player, he wasn’t for Houston. Drafted 14th overall in 2011, he averaged just 7.1 points in a season and a half before he was traded to Phoenix. What made this pick more glaring is that the player chosen behind him was Kawhi Leonard, who was selected at No. 15 by Indiana, which sent him to San Antonio in a draft-day trade.
Royce White: This was one of the saddest stories. The No. 16 pick in the 2012 draft, White had an anxiety disorder because of a fear of flying. He never played for Houston before being traded to the Sixers the following July. He played three career NBA games with Sacramento. The 2012 draft had two noted second-round picks who turned into future All-Stars, including Draymond Green (selected No. 35 by Golden State) and Khris Middleton (No. 39 by Detroit).