Why 76ers’ trust in Daryl Morey to take over basketball operations will pay off


Don’t let the issues of the NBA’s latest peculiar pairing distract from the main point: The Philadelphia 76ers’ decision to hand total control of their basketball operations to Daryl Morey is a stroke of brilliance. 

If you can hire the smartest guy in the room, you do. And Morey, the former Houston Rockets general manager, has few peers anywhere in the NBA.

Yes, to be fair, there are myriad reasons that at first blush the Morey-Philly pairing feels odd at best.

Despite their long and strong relationship, Morey, as the newly minted president of basketball operations, did not get to hire brand-new head coach Doc Rivers. And Elton Brand, the current Sixers general manager, reportedly will stick around in that role, a strange possible mix of ego and overlapping responsibilities that’ll make those first meetings awkward in the extreme.

Someone like Morey — and anyone, really, in that positon — does and will want to hire their key people.

To drive home the irregular timing of Morey taking over in Philly, his exit from Houston coincided with his frustration that head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to move on, despite Morey aggressively trying to convince D’Antoni to stick around.

Yet D’Antoni left, tested the coaching market, and got rejected by … Philadelphia. 

The Sixers also took few 3-point shots compared to the league last year, a fact at odds with how Morey will surely want to build this team. Last year, his Rockets were by far the league’s most likely team to fire up a 3-pointer. 

Which brings us to Ben Simmons, a highly paid, talented, supposed lynchpin of the Sixers’ plans. But Simmons has taken 24 3-point shots in his entire career. That he finally hit one last year — he was 2 of 7 from deep — doesn’t exactly argue for a perfect fit under whatever Morey cooks up.

No matter. Morey is the man who took over Houston, and through smarts, experimentation, a bevy of trades and trial and error turned them into a perennial winner. 

Morey is a numbers man, an analytics adherent who sees answers in the math and finds solutions in trying lots of different things until he gets it right. He’s also a shrewd executive, one who pried James Harden from Sam Presti and the Thunder and turned that trade into a catalyst for two Western Conference finals appearances and a true, though ultimately failed, contending team. 

Morey’s stewardship leaves the Rockets holding the league’s longest mark for consecutive playoff appearances at eight. That’s something Morey built in Houston. He’s going to build something special for the Sixers, too.

And there is much, much more talent waiting on Morey in Philly than there was 13 years ago when he took over in Houston. 

This should also put to rest the notion the NBA lets its strings get pulled by China. Morey, who criticized China in a tweet earlier this year and jeopardized the deep financial relationship between the league and China (one similar to the many, many, many Fortune 500 companies who do business there) had no trouble getting a job after stepping down in Houston.

Why?

Because the man is great at his job.

And in Philly there is much to work with. Joel Embiid is an MVP-level player. Simmons is either a key piece or a big trade chip. While the Sixers took fewer 3-pointers than most of their NBA peers, they still ranked ninth in 3-point shooting last year. The Rockets may have taken 45 3s per game, but they only hit 34.5 percent of them — just 24th in the NBA.

The fact is this: Morey will figure it out. If that includes Simmons, then it will. If it doesn’t, then it won’t. But the city that put its trust in The Process should feel markedly more certain that trusting in Daryl Morey will deliver.





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