actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

I’m Daryl Morey, General Manager of the Houston Rockets. Ask Me Anything.

Apr 13th 2018 by dmorey • 40 Questions • 3005 Points

Let's go reddit! Playoffs AMA!!

Much to talk about:
-- Houston Rockets 65-17 season
-- Our 1st round matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves
-- Clutch Gaming inaugural League of Legends season
-- Musical Small Ball I have been working on for 5 years -- or anything on your mind. I am expecting weird questions, don't disappoint!

Proof https://twitter.com/dmorey/status/984792772271116296

EDIT Thank you for all the questions apology I could not get to more!

Q:

What should the Knicks do to not suck forever?

A:

There is a common denominator to all their issues...


Q:

What’s the biggest/most interesting trade you ever had lined up that came close but fell through? This doesn’t have to be a last minute fall through, just close but no cigar.

A:

This is tough is it needs to involve players no longer in the league. You also don't ever really know how close you are to a trade until it is done as there are so many approval levels in most teams decision making unit. We think we were very close on a large Chauncey Billups deal in I believe 2008 that would have been very positive.


Q:

What’s your best Yao Ming story?

A:

When Yao Ming was in the drug testing line during training camp he asked all his teammates, “Why am I the only one not nervous?”


Q:

How has harden grown as a person and a player since his arrival in houston?

A:

James dedicates himself so much to his craft. He sets diligent goals in his life on what he wants to improve on and off the court and it is amazing he has accomplished 90% plus of those over the years by my count.


Q:

Did you ever get a legit trade idea from reading an article/tweet/podcast? Did you actually propose the trade?

A:

Yes & Yes


Q:

Why aren't front loaded contracts more common?

...

I would think it would provide benefits to both sides as the player can get their money up front and invest it for better returns, and the team with better flexibility as time passes.

A:

Front loaded contracts are a win/win when possible. Players get more money up front and teams get more flexibility on the back end. Contracts where you are giving the player the most allowed under the CBA have to be escalating so they can get the max possible.


Q:

If you had to give any non-Basketball pro athlete a minimum contract for 2 years, who would it be?

A:

prime Randy Moss


Q:

Hey Daryl,

There was a recent article published about how stressful and difficult basketball is for you to watch. It almost seemed to make you out to be a constant morose and frustrated person, which is pretty much the opposite of your public persona

Would you agree with the article’s portrayal of your personality?

A:

the article is true. I go from rational to irrational once the games begin


Q:

You, Danny Ainge and Sam Hinkie have likely been the 3 most discussed GMs in the NBA this decade. As the only one to work with both, how do the 3 of you compare? You and Sam have the analytics reputation. Ainge obviously has Zarren for that now. But is he more likely to go against what the analytics say than you or Sam?

If you all inherited rebuilding teams in as close to identical situations as possible, would the 3 of you have the same strategies from the beginning or are there major philosophical differences?

A:

Danny Ainge is the best GM in the NBA -- consistent success over time like he has done is nearly impossible


Q:

Do you think Sam Hinkie will get another chance to manage a team again?

A:

For sure, Sam is one of the top General Managers available, he will get another chance in not too long


Q:

Would you say most league executives agree with you that Hinkie has a place in the league?

A:

Yes


Q:

I would add a corollary to this question; if Sam does get another job, how different do you think his approach would be? What if the owner isn't willing to bottom out at 10 wins, would sam still be a good choice?

A:

Sam would be a good choice in any context


Q:

This morning an article came out about how agonizing watching Rockets games can be for you. With that being said, how many years has Jeff Bzdelik added to your life expectancy? Our defensive lapses in the past had to have been particularly agonizing.

A:

Jeff Bzdelik has improved my sleep mostly


Q:

Regression to the mean?

A:

This was one of the more funny misunderstandings that happened to me on Twitter this year. Scott Cacciola is my NY Times writer friend and he asked on Twitter why a team he just wrote about played worse right after the article came out. I answered with regression to the mean as it is a well-known phenomenon that newspapers only write articles about the extremely good or bad teams and that the teams will almost always decline or improve immediately after the article is written. Folks on Twitter then made it a whole thing. C'est la vie


Q:

What'd you think of James Harden's GQ Shoot? Which Rocket would you let choose your outfits if you were to be in a GQ Photo Shoot?

A:

My goodness I thought his GQ photos and article were amazing


Q:

I live in Minnesota and know only pain and agony as it relates to basketball. Would you consider handing the Timberwolves a free pass to the 2nd round?

I'm willing to ship you as much lutefisk as you can eat, I just need your address.

A:

True story I worked in Eagan, MN for about a year so I am excited to visit Minneapolis. Lutefisk is not going to do it but if you can get me an invite to the 2nd week of deer camp somewhere I might consider.


Q:

In an earlier AMA on the Rockets subreddit, you said, basically outright, that none of the publicly available defensive statistics are worth much. Is this about not having proper inputs, having not really integrated player tracking data? Is the methodology, things like the ridge regression on lineup data, just outdated? Or is defense just difficult to measure such that it basically takes perfect execution on the best existing tools to work? Or would you say that even the teams themselves don't measure it all that well because of how variable schemes can be?

On a separate note, as a Hornets fan, I get all of my food advice from basketball GMs. Can you give me any ideas on good meals to cook or specific tricks?

A:

High-level answer - defense is very difficult to measure as it is super contextual with significant interaction effects. The publicly available data that I have seen either does not account for these difficulties for various reasons – lack of data, poor approach, etc…


Q:

What’s more nerve wracking, a well-defended mid-range jumper or opening night of Small Ball?

A:

opening night of Small Ball


Q:

Hey Daryl. Thanks for doing this. I have a couple questions.

1) I follow agadmator's chess channel and I noticed that for a time you were one of his top donators. How did you get into chess, and how has it helped you in your career/life (if applicable)? Do you still play (and if so, what is your rating, lol)?

2) [optional] Thoughts on Sam Hinkie?

A:

I still play chess on chess.com – I love that app. When I was 14 I was 5th in the state of Ohio tournament in my age group which was a total fluke – I was not that good – but it got me super jazzed about chess for a bit. I was lucky enough to catch the candidates tournament on an off day on my trip through Europe recently – I was very excited Caruana won – it is amazing to have the 1st American since Bobby Fischer to compete for the world title. I don’t really know if chess has helped me later – most studies about similar aptitudes have found no crossover – e.g. that being good at chess shows that in the future you will be good at…chess.


Q:

People have bounced around several ideas to improve the playoffs (e.g., eliminating conferences, having a play-in tournament). If this was a Daryl dictatorship, what would you change?

A:

I like NFL playoffs format. Top 2 seeds get a bye. Top 6 from each conference make it. One and done NCAA/NFL style until champion crowned. The ratings for each of these win or go home games would annihilate the ratings of any other sport.


Q:

Were there any truths to the Rockets invasion through Clippers Secret Tunnels rumors? I figure it was all exaggerated but that one rumor that had Capela knocking on the front door as a distraction had me cracking up.

A:

I think I addressed this here


Q:

What opinion do you hold that, if it were made public, would be the most damaging to your career?

A:

That my reddit burner account is JasonDavidWongPargin


Q:

You’ve shown in your twitter you have a personal opinion on politics (as most of us do), and in recent years NBA social activism has reached new heights of engagement. You also are fortunate enough to have the head of the NBA Player's Union on your team (as a Rocket's fan, THANK YOU!)

From management's standpoint, Is there a line where social engagement can become too strong? Rephrased, is there an (non-illegal) issue you don’t want players to engage in or is there only an issue if it affects their play on the court?

A:

I think how much people engage in politics publicly is their personal choice and I support players & executives who are very vocal about it but I also respect those who choose not to be vocal. Personally, many of my views are not in the mainstream as I am a centrist-libertarian. I believe in strong civil liberties and a government that intervenes if & only if there is a structural failure that private actions generally cannot solve. Taxing externalities, solving free rider problems, providing safety net, common defense, etc… I strongly support organizations like the ACLU that defend basic freedoms and I have for a 25+ years. I do chuckle at the people who have joining the ACLU recently (as they should!) but don’t really understand they are supporting the Bill of Rights and all that comes with that including defending free speech for some really terrible groups.


Q:

Thank you for the answer and elaborating on your own politics. It’s always interesting to hear what others believe in and to listen and understand each other.

But my question was more along the lines of at what point does a player’s activism become a detriment to the team or does such a line not exist?

A:

I understand more now what you are asking. I don't really have a good answer apology


Q:

I've often been amazed at how the hivemind of sports communities, like /r/nba, can pose and thoroughly explore an idea in incredible depth. Do y'all (or any other executives/teams that you know of) ever seriously read online communities just to see if any amateurs have done some interesting work or exploration? Or to gauge how the fanbase might feel about certain moves?

A:

I read blogs all the time as you can easily get stuck in groupthink inside organizations. I have a MLB GM friend who consistently reads the dedicated fan blogs and learns things as well. Bimathug for example knows the NBA CBA as well as almost anyone in the world.


Q:

I get how flawed all the public stats and public tracking data are for evaluating defense, but how would you recommend an interested fan go about trying to evaluate how good a player is at defense? Is it really just "You have to watch tons of games that's all you can do without access to team/private data" or do you think there are actual public data/metrics that can help supplement game watching to evaluate how good someone is at defense?

A:

I think no substitute for watching a ton of games. The longitudinal APM approaches might provide the best loose ordinal ranking to start.


Q:

What are you thoughts on the 1-and-done rule? Obviously there is not quick fix, but what do you see as a good potential solution to getting the good young talent into the league rather than 'developing' in college for a few months post-high school?

A:

I like the approach baseball takes


Q:

What’s your best Sam Hinkie story?

Edit: What’s your best Sam Hinkie story that you can’t repeat?

A:

They all came during late night table tennis marathons at the Toyota Center but I think they were all ones I cannot repeat


Q:

Daryl, we crossed paths at the last dress rehearsal of Small Ball (after the Portland game). I stared in disbelief since I didn't see you before the play ended, and you just casually fistbumped as if we'd met before. After thoroughly laughing my ass off all night, glancing knuckles with someone I've anonymously Stanned online for a decade plus was the cherry on top. You, Jason, and the rest of the team are making funny, original art, which has to be a first for a (fingers crossed) soon-to-be Executive of the Year of a (knock on wood) championship team. Congrats.

1) What were you most proud of about Small Ball? I was most impressed by the inspired musical performances and that somehow, the absurd story arc worked.

2) I heard on Lowe's podcast that your FO released a Parsons-themed (Chandler, not Jim) monopoly game. This was clearly Hinkie's genius at work. If you could share (you can't), how do you feel about him being blackballed? And wouldn't he be an incredible asset coming back to TC?

A:

I am so happy you enjoyed the show thank you for telling your friends to go! Small Ball

1) I proud of what Mickle/Tony/Merel/Jason/Tamarie were able to accomplish. I enjoyed being a dramaturg (new word I learned). Not sure what I am most proud of - maybe that the story works for both basketball and non-basketball fans. That is tough to pull off.
2) I answered some Sam questions before but he is not being blackballed, he is just waiting for the right opportunity.


Q:

What's your username on ClutchFans?

A:

Carl Herrera


Q:

If you could create a musical about the life of anyone from the history of the NBA, who would it be and why?

A:

Stephon Marbury! In fact Small Ball was almost about his story arc


Q:

Hey Daryl!

My question is in regards to the financial well being of professional esports players. Like many pro athletes in traditional sports, e-sports athletes typically put off completing higher education for careers that on average last 2-6 years currently. Is there any sort of infrastructure in place that is educating these 18-24-year-olds on how to handle this money or maximize their earnings during this period to hopefully support them and their future families? Or are they all on their own to figure it out? In that case, it seems like we are only a matter of time before we have a Tim Duncan situation on our hands with one of these currents pros being robbed by trusting the wrong person.

Thanks for all you have done for the Rockets and the city of Houston. I have my Small Ball tickets Saturday and playoff tickets for Games 1 and 2. GO ROCKETS!!!

A:

1st, thank you for coming to Small Ball !
eSports players for sure will need the equivalent of the Rookie transition program in the NBA & I fully expect leagues & teams to provide this in the near future. Our education system should provide more financial or just basic decision making literacy. Players rarely ask my advice but when they do I give them two simple rules for their money:
1) Don’t spend money on the 3 Fs. Avoid anything that Floats, Flies, or ...
2) If you don’t know more than other people on a potential investment, DON’T INVEST IN IT! It means that people who do know something aren’t investing in it and they are looking for dumb money.


Q:

Which executive in the league doesn't get enough credit for being forward-thinking and analytics oriented? Can you give some examples of what they've done/used that may surprise us?

A:

Neil Olshey is one of the best GMs who doesn't get many accolades


Q:

Do you have any advice or learning for setting up and running a data based organization, sports or non?

If you can talk about it, what are sources of tech debt that you wish you could go back in time and do differently?

How much League of Legends do you watch? Do you have any thoughts on the nascent analytics scene there, and challenges you've faced? Do you think there's been crossover value in being a basketball org that understands analyzing a game where players have selfish motivations vs. team good? How much impact do stars have compared with basketball? I feel like 'superteam' type projects fail more often than putting an all-star team together in the NBA does.

A:

Tom Davenport books are solid on using data to help decision making

I watch a ton of League of Legends - such an amazingly interesting and complex game. Some team is going to figure out an OP strategy and take the league by storm - I hope it is us

I do think there are synergies between basketball and League of Legends. I think stars have less impact in league of legends but that is not saying much stars in the NBA have the most impact of any team sport yet devised to my knowledge


Q:

Grats on the Rockets and CG having such great seasons!

What would you say to those who still don't align eSports with sports as a form of competitive entertainment/don't take it seriously?

Do you see franchising in League becoming more city-focused like traditional sports? How would you go about relocating the teams and building facilities?

A:

I think the debate about esports as a sport misses the point. Both are entertainment products and both are generally fantastically successful entertainment products. Let's enjoy them for what they are. That said, anything you have to synchronize or repeat is not a sport so that rules out synchronized Diving and triple jump as sports.


Q:

With all the MVP debates going on over the past couple seasons and seemingly different criteria being used year by year, how would you as a GM best define "value"?

A:

highest win probability influenced that season


Q:

Thanks for the AMA Daryl Morey! So with the rise of advance statistics, many of my friends and (retired and current) pros dismissed the idea of using advance statistics, instead favoring just simple box scores and fg%.

My question is this: what are some things that can be said/used to make more people embrace the use of advance statistics?

Because as of this moment people are still skeptical about it’s use to gauge the effectiveness of a team/player and other just flat out call it “nerdy”.

EDIT: also what does James Harden smell like?

A:

I was thinking about answering this until the EDIT at the end


Q:

Daryl, I was wondering if you thought Caruana would slash with black against King Magnus or take a more Botvinnik-Karpov-Petrosian-ish positional style?

A:

Caruana is going to go full on Karpov and it makes me sad but it likely is his best shot to win


Q:

Is there any reasonable way to end tanking?

Also I get to see Hamilton in June. Should I listen to the soundtrack before I go or go in cold?

A:

You should listen to the soundtrack 7 times before going to see Hamilton. There was a study that the 8th listen is optimal.

I would go back to the old system of a flat lottery - it would help to eliminate tanking while also preserving the hope for teams that are bad. Teams would also be making a realistic trade off between making playoffs or getting a low odds chance at a top player.


Q:

who is your favorite wrestler?

A:

Rulon Gardner