What Does Morey Know?

Houston general manager Daryl Morey often draws comparisons to his counterpart with the Oakland A's, Moneyball hero Billy Beane. It's an apt parallel; both are young, super-smart and place a heavy emphasis on high-end statistical analysis. Their superior understanding of the numbers game allows them to identify and acquire players that other teams might under-value.

So when the Rockets or the A's make a move that doesn't immediately make sense to me, I don't think, "wow, that's a mistake." I think, "what does he know that we don't?"

Which brings me to Houston's recent acquisitions.

Kevin Martin and the Rockets are a match made in heaven. Martin is one of the most efficient scorers in the league, and Houston is all about efficiency. And draft picks are always valued. But the move that left many observers scratching their heads was Morey's willingness to include Carl Landry in the deal.

Landry, in theory, is exactly the sort of player that Morey looks for. Efficient. Doesn't need plays to be run for him to be productive. And inexpensive -- he's got a team option for next season at just $3 million. (Don't forget, the whole point of "Moneyball" is finding players other teams don't value as highly -- so they can be signed for less. A starting power forward for $3 million is one of the NBA's better bargains.)

The simplest explanation is, obviously, "you have to give something to get something." Landry at $3 million is a huge value to a team like the Kings, who were looking to clear salary as they rebuild around Tyreke Evans.

But simple explanations aren't much fun, are they? Let's dig deeper, and apply what we know of other "Moneyball" GMs.

Billy Beane doesn't fall in love with his own discoveries; if he has an opporunity to deal an asset and make his team younger, better, or more economical, he'll pull the trigger. He's particularly willing to develop and trade relief pitchers; he always seems to find guys to fill out a bullpen.

What if Carl Landry was Houston's version of Huston Street? A commodity that looked valuable in the context of the Rockets, but who might not be as useful playing elsewhere?

What if Morey feels like Landry-type players are assets he can replace fairly easily -- either via the draft or the lower-levels of free agency?

What if Morey thinks he already has a replacement -- Jordan Hill?

If you think option one has any merit, you might want to sell high on Mr. Landry at this point. If it's option two, go ahead and make a free agent claim on whoever seems to be getting Landry's minutes for the rest of this season. And if it's three -- Hill is your guy.

I'm inclined to suspect Hill will be a valuable player in Houston. The rookie didn't show much while in New York, but according to most reports, Morey insisted the rookie be part of any deal for McGrady. Once again, I'm assuming the man Bill Simmons calls "Dork Elvis" knows something I don't.


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