Inside the Sixers: 'Analytic' general manager wouldn't work with 76ers

                                    DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
                                    DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 15, 2012

When the 76ers decided to promote good soldier Tony DiLeo to the general manager's post after what on the surface appeared to be an exemplary performance in helping to rebuild the Sixers on the fly, some thought it wasn't sexy enough.

They wanted the newest thing - the analytic - that guy who would go all Billy Beane on the organization, pop some numbers into equations that only a small minority of basketball people believe in, and spit out a world champion.

This is apparently the plan in Houston, where general manager Daryl Morey - widely regarded as the Dalai Lama of hoops analytics - continues to orchestrate what looks like an unchecked tail-chasing mission that has been going on ever since he was named general manager there five years ago.

Morey, who inherited a 52-win team in 2007, is the poster boy for reasons not to position an analytic as the basketball-operations rubber stamp, and further proof that the Sixers, still looking to add an analytic in a significantly smaller role, made the right decision in hiring DiLeo rather than the next would-be boy genius.

Under Morey, the Rockets have won just one playoff series and finished out of the playoffs three years running. But the moves he made this summer - from gutting his roster in the failed hope of landing Dwight Howard to the drafting of Royce White with one of the three first- round picks - are legitimate reasons to doubt whether the MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management is properly equipped to be a top-tier NBA decision-maker.

White, the 16th player selected in last June's draft, may be talented. But his anxiety disorder - he has an acute fear of flying, something that may make an NBA career impossible - forced him to miss training camp as well as the team's first two preseason games.

Morey's best solution for getting White from town to town is putting him on a bus. That's something that might have proved successful when he was in college, but it is a laughable remedy at best in a league where teams regularly travel hundreds of miles overnight to play back-to-back games.

While this is problematic by itself, White had red flags that would have deterred other general managers from drafting him in the first round. He has a history of disciplinary problems that resulted in his transferring from Minnesota to Iowa State, and in his attending more than one high school.

Indianapolis center Roy Hibbert tweeted "some1 is gonna get fired in the org 4 giving the go ahead" to draft White.

This past summer, Morey purged a roster that finished above .500 for the third year in a row. The stated goal at that time was to make Houston an attractive destination for a superstar, namely Dwight Howard. Other teams backed away from the fickle former Orlando center when it became obvious that Howard, in the last year of his contract, wanted to be traded only to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, or the Brooklyn Nets.

That cued most teams that the risk-reward ratio for Howard was too high. They understood that acquiring Howard would require a roster purge that would fetch Howard, only to see him leave next summer as a free agent.

Morey did not seem to understand this, and now Houston has a roster mostly of power forwards and players who do not fit very well with each other.

Morley's signing of point guard Jeremy Lin to a $25 million deal this summer is a head-scratcher, especially when one considers that Morley waived Lin, then an undrafted, cheap free agent fresh out of Harvard, right before the start of last season.

Morey's approach to franchise-building appears to be one of heavy wheeling and dealing on draft day to acquire assets and then crossing his fingers that they pan out.

Thus far, they have not.

Morey has made 32 trades over the last five years. Under his direction, the Rockets have made a trade at every trading deadline except in 2010. To his credit, he has stockpiled future draft picks that may one day prove to be wonderful assets. And in the five years that he has run the team, Houston has never finished with a losing record.

This approach may have worked in Houston. It would not, however, work here. The Sixers paraded a bunch of analytics through their offices at the Wells Fargo Center but ultimately made the right decision to go with a player-personnel veteran.

Today this looks like the right move.


Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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