Daryl Morey’s trademark in Houston was not building through the draft.
The Sixers’ new president of basketball operations hasn’t made a first-round pick, in fact, since 2015.
Below are the first-rounders Morey kept beyond draft night during his tenure with the Rockets. Lamb and White never played for Houston during the regular season.
- Aaron Brooks, No. 26 (2007)
- Patrick Patterson, No. 14 (2010)
- Marcus Morris, No. 14 (2011)
- Jeremy Lamb, No. 12 (2012)
- Royce White, No. 16 (2012)
- Terrence Jones, No. 18 (2012)
- Clint Capela, No. 25 (2014)
- Sam Dekker, No. 18 (2015)
He often used first-round selections for purposes besides drafting young talent, like in trades for James Harden, Chris Paul and Robert Covington.
Will his approach be any different this year? The Sixers have five picks, the most of any team in the Nov. 18 NBA draft, including No. 21. In his first comments about this year’s draft, Morey actually alluded to Covington. The 29-year-old signed with Houston after going undrafted in 2013 out of Tennessee State, won the D-League Rookie of the Year Award with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, joined The Process in Philadelphia and eventually returned to the Rockets this February. Morey was already searching for similar potential undrafted gems before he stepped down.
“The good thing is (general manager Elton Brand) has been working hard on those five picks,” he said. “We were in Houston, even though we didn’t have a pick this year, we actually talk about it. It’s actually more prep for the draft when you don’t have a pick because you’re maybe buying a pick in the second round or going after undrafted guys, including some famous ones that ping-ponged between us and Philly and Minnesota.
"So I do think — we haven’t even had a meeting yet — but we’ll be ready. They’re ready, and then obviously we were prepping for six months before and during the bubble, as well, in Houston. That’s still in my brain, hopefully.”
Morey has had a couple of second-round success stories in Chandler Parsons, the 38th pick in 2011, and Montrezl Harrell, the 32nd pick in 2015. This year’s draft is not considered especially strong at the top, though there do appear to be future rotation players throughout. Picks 21, 34 and 36 could all be opportunities to take such players. A worthwhile developmental big man might be there at No. 49 or 58.
As long as Morey keeps them, two recent Sixers draft picks look poised to be important pieces for next season. Matisse Thybulle was technically a Celtics pick last year at No. 20, and the Sixers traded the 56th and 60th selections to take 54th pick Shake Milton from the Mavs in 2018. With the Sixers tied down to expensive contracts for Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, there’s more value than ever in affordable, productive young players.
Of course, that 21st pick might convince another team to pull the trigger on dealing away a star, or on accepting Horford and giving the Sixers a useful player. For as intriguing as the ideas of Stanford sharpshooter Tyrell Terry, NBA-ready TCU wing Desmond Bane or talented Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey on the Sixers might be, the pick shouldn’t be sacrosanct.
The Sixers selling a second-round selection or two wouldn’t be a shock, although managing partner Josh Harris does seem willing to pay a substantial luxury tax penalty and has reportedly given healthy contracts to new head coach Doc Rivers and Morey. We can expect more selling than usual in this draft, given the financial challenges posed by COVID-19, but it’s difficult to imagine that being the best route for the Sixers. Morey does happen to be familiar with cost-cutting moves from his experience trying to get under the luxury tax with the Rockets.
This draft, however, won’t be similar to any Morey has done in recent years. He’ll likely lean on Brand and Sixers VP of scouting Vince Rozman, weigh the seemingly infinite options to trade for players and picks and, perhaps, use a first-round selection for the first time in five years.