Daryl Morey once produced a musical comedy called “Small Ball.” It is not only an affirmation of a basketball philosophy he has often embraced, but also a testament to a man who, as one NBA insider says, “has a brain that never turns off.”
Morey, it seems, is one of those people who could have been a success at almost anything he chose. As it turns out, his thing is basketball, combining a tireless work ethic, tenacity and his high IQ to, as another NBA lifer told me, “get it done.”
At times, he’s willing to play the long game to accomplish that, much like his mentee and author of “The Process,” former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie. A prime example of that is the just concluded 2019-20 season, the last of Morey’s 13 seasons as the chief basketball man for the Houston Rockets. The team ended the year with one of the smallest starting lineups in recent NBA history. At 6-7, former 76er Robert Covington was the tallest player in that lineup. But from what we can determine, this wasn’t necessarily the end game, as the trade deadline appeared to snuff out any attempt by Morey to drop the other shoe. So, he stood pat with Team Tiny, content to do more roster overhauling during the offseason.
But here in Philly, "The Process" has run its course, and in light of that, it’s safe to assume that Morey is not being brought in to merely tinker or acquire assets. Ben Simmons' postseason absence notwithstanding, the team’s unceremonious first-round playoff exit only served to validate a disappointing regular season. Morey will, it seems, do what needs to be done — and quickly — to enact whatever plan is put in place to try to turn this team into a true title contender.
Morey’s modus operandi is buttressed by an overwhelming wealth of information he assigns his staff to gather each and every season. Armed with that information, Morey fearlessly looks to accomplish what most GMs might figure to be impossible. For example, just when you think a player’s contract might make him “untradable,” Morey has the will and the way to get it done.
And he won’t operate in a vacuum. Morey and new head coach Doc Rivers have a history, with Morey serving in the Boston Celtics' front office while Rivers was the team’s head coach. More importantly, the feeling here is that Morey is philosophically aligned with getting the kind of players Rivers wants for his team. So, if Rivers wants to play more pick-and-roll, Morey will be on the lookout for the right players.
The same is true for his love of analytics. Morey is one of the co-founders of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual forum designed to explore and discuss the increasing use of analytics in sports. Yet the view from here is that Morey is not married to analytics for every player or play call, instead using it merely as a tool to help shape the roster, as well as helping the coach to coach the team.
The Sixers will now have two of the best basketball people in the NBA at the helm when you combine Morey with Rivers, a future Hall of Famer as a coach. Two front office All-Stars who will now guide a team with two, young All-Stars on the court. And when it comes to getting that team to the NBA Finals, it will hopefully happen sooner rather than later, given Morey’s ability to “get it done.”