Rockets’ Morey Talks Draft, Roster, D’Antoni, More

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is hopeful that the NBA will be able to resume its 2019/20 season, since he feels as if his club is in a good spot to make some noise in the playoffs. Speaking to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, Morey said he was pleased by the way Russell Westbrook and James Harden had meshed in recent months.

“I think we’re as well positioned as we’ve ever been with our current situation,” Morey said. “Maybe we’re not the ’96 Bulls, but I think we’re a team that can win the title in any given year, including this one.”

Morey declined to comment on whether he believes the season can be salvaged, but said he’s “confident in general” about the NBA’s outlook: “I’m optimistic in a lot of ways that we’ll come out of this crisis and that basketball will come out of it as well.”

Feigen’s Q&A with Morey included several other interesting tidbits, as the Rockets’ GM discussed his draft preparations, Mike D’Antoni‘s future, the club’s ability to spend, and more. Let’s round up some of the highlights…

On preparing for the draft despite not having a first- or second-round pick:

“We have a long history of buying (draft picks), which I think has a reasonable chance of happening. We also might have a trade to trade (into the draft.) Actually, having no pick ends up harder than having a pick. You normally don’t want to roster more than one to three rookies in a given year. We generally like to roster at least one because I think it is smart to always have a developmental pipeline going.

“You’re preparing for a much wider list. You have to be ready to trade into the first round. You have to be ready to buy a pick. You have to be ready for the crush as teams chase undrafted players. We’re going to prepare everything now because we just don’t know how much time there’s going to be between things like we normally know.”

On the Rockets’ roster going forward:

“Our (trade) deadline really set us up well. Not only did we shoot for a better structure of our core players, that they fit together better, but also allowed us to be more flexible going forward to add players that we think overall as we allocate our player spending. We were over-weighted at the five spot. This opens up ability to spend at other spots.”

On whether the Rockets want to retain D’Antoni and his staff beyond this season:

“Coach D’Antoni is one of the best all-time coaches, in my opinion. To me, he’s like one of those players in the past that hadn’t quite won the title yet. I’m hoping this is the year for him. He’s one of the all-time great innovators and a great partner. I’d love for it to keep going. It takes two to tango, but we’re going to figure that out in the offseason.”

On how he’d respond to criticism of moves that appeared designed to cut costs and avoid the tax:

“Judge us by results on the floor. I honestly don’t get the focus on what owners around the league are spending. Pretty much every owner is spending … right around the luxury tax line. That’s where we’ve been literally my whole career. Nothing’s changed. That’s how every team operates.”

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