Morey vs GarPax and the luck involved in putting a team together

So lately, I've seen quite a few people discuss what a genius Daryl Morey is and how if only the Bulls had such an aggressive GM that would make big moves and plan ahead to strike at the right time then they'd have a title. Perhaps. But the Bulls front office is more aggressive than you think and just a tad less lucky.

The Houston Rockets were able to trade for James Harden, a young star player using a bunch of pedestrian assets. Middle first round picks and an aging offensive player largely because the Thunder were caught in strange conundrum. They wanted to still have a shot to win the title in the present season while still getting some future return.

Getting Kevin Martin and their draft picks allowed them that opportunity, however, the trade looks especially bad for Houston because the Raptors pick (guaranteed to be in the lottery) ended up in the worthless part of it, and Westbrook tore his meniscus rendering their title hopes moot.

The package overall wasn't amazingly attractive though, given that Martin was on a rental (rarely has value to a team trading a star) and the Raptors were projected to win 33 games by Hollinger in preseason (they won 34), and the 2013 draft was known to suck when the pick was likely to be delivered.

However, it was enough to make the deal work and outbid other teams because Washington was scared to offer Harden the max, and there weren't a lot of bidders at Harden's pricetag of the max.

With Harden, Parsens, Lin, and Asik, Houston became the best team with max cap room to pursue Dwight Howard. It seems a year with the Lakers was enough to convince Dwight he'd better look at the cast around him. Of course, if Dwight had done that a year earlier, then he might be sitting in a Bulls uniform right now, because quite frankly, that cast isn't incredibly appealing, but it's pretty good for a team with cap room.

Of course, people will say Morey did it again. He was in the right spot to capitalize on the situation and got it done. The sad thing about this is that the Bulls were WAY better positioned in 2010 with a better class of FAs to choose from. They had swung room for two max FAs to join a cast of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and Taj Gibson. This was no accident. I interviewed John Paxson in the summer of 2007, and he told me they were planning for 2010 already.

The Bulls positioned themselves with a much better cast and much more cap room than the Rockets, but the whole NBA was blindsided by Miami and the premeditated plan to get the big three together. It didn't work out for Chicago, tough break for them.

The point isn't that Morey's awful and Gar Forman/John Paxson are great (or the reverse). The point is that luck will always play a huge factor in this league, and all a GM can do is put his team in position to succeed if luck favors them and not screw stuff up Otis Smith style. I think both Morey and GarPax have done that and work fairly similarly. They plan for the future, accumulate assets, stay flexible with their spending, and look to constantly be in position to make the big move if they can.

In the past two years, its worked out for Houston who looks like they've made a huge leap forward. Of course, we'll see if that leap is big enough to put them ahead of the Bulls team that fans are still complaining is too stagnant. My guess is it will be pretty close.

That said, it's much easier to make the leap from wins in the low 40s to wins in the mid to upper 50s. The Bulls already leaped into the 60s. Making the final leap to champion is quite difficult indeed.


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  • Yeah, I mostly agree with this. Even going back to last year the Bulls had the assets to make a trade for Howard instead of the Lakers (Orlando reportedly wanted to deal with the Bulls), but Howard wanted nothing to do with us.

    But I do think it raises another interesting question: The Bulls have put themselves in position to get lucky for years now. It feels like they've had young assets, and a lot to offer for a real long time, yet they never actually get a big deal done. So that makes me wonder, is it simply a case of bad luck, or is it that there's something inherently wrong with ownership/management that is making this stuff not go our way?

  • When a organization is serious about winning titles, teams like Miami, Houston, the Lakers, and a few other teams in the league go beyond their means to bring in the right personnel and players to win championships. This is why GM's and owners like Morey, Pat Riley, Kupchak, Cuban, and Arisen, even Jerry West with Golden State on the rise build championship teams. There has to be a commitment to winning and everyone in the organization has to be on the same page. Now can we say this about the Bulls especially after this past season...POSITIVELY NO!!!

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Oh and forgot to mention, a stable organization don't have GMs fighting, pulling power plays, and firing their coaches. The Bulls FO is a made for TV reality show which makes them a joke to people on the outside looking in.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Morey hasn't done anything the Bulls weren't willing to do thus far, and so far, he also hasn't experienced as much success. Of course, we'll see where the Rockets are in a year or two, perhaps they'll be similarly successful or more successful than the Bulls now that the fruits of his labor are paying off.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Stop making excuses for the Bulls FO Doug. No Morey hasn't done anything yet, but he has shown he's willing to do what needs to be done to win. He showed up and bamboozled the Bulls FO in stealing away Asik when all the Bulls had to do was make him a qualifying offer that would've made him a restricted free agent when his contract ended. I mean it's just common sense when it comes to the Bulls FO, as long as attendance is at capacity at the UC and no one is putting any pressure on Reinsdork, the Bulls will be a regular season winner AND THAT IS ALL!!!

  • In reply to Reese1:

    I think you need to check your facts on the qualifying offer story.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    No need to check, the Bulls let Asik, a very valuable asset walk for nothing. Asik could've brought the Bulls a lot trade wise if they didn't want to keep him.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    The Bulls absolutely did not have full Bird rights on Asik, they had early bird rights, meaning that they could have matched but chose not to. The biggest mistake that they made was not giving Asik a 3 or 4 year contract upfront, now that is a typical Reiny move, penny wise, pound foolish.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Well, Morey has done everything to win, but until he actually wins, he hasn't done anything yet.

  • they had their opportunities for a second scoring star, they didn't want to give up Noah for Carmelo Anthony and they don't want to give up Noah for LaMarcus Aldridge so this idea that top 10 players want nothing to do with Chicago is false. The reality is the rest of the league doesn't value Deng, Hinrich and some of the organization favorites the same way. Unfortunately Denver and Portland weren't interested in Luol Deng+filler, they wanted the second best player on the Bulls team, a CENTER since this position is hard to fill in with quality 7 footer(ahhh eeehmm thats why you don't let Asik walk cuz he is a valuable trade asset the very least) The thing is Forman-Paxson duo is afraid to screw up on a major trade and want to be the clear winner in that trade and I understand them wanting to build a team around Rose-Noah axis but they have to understand to get to the next level the Bulls are going to need more scoring firepower so if they can do that without sacrificing Noah, great but we'll wait and see. Maybe get a 3 way deal going with Luol Deng so the third team sends portland the assets they're looking for.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    They aren't letting Deng go that is Pax's boy. I am expecting a contract that is max years and once again overpaying a mediocre talent.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Carmelo flat out said he only wanted to be traded to NY and wouldn't accept an extension anywhere else.

    The thinking on Aldridge is so far based on the flimsiest of reports as Aldridge hasn't yet been traded and this hasn't been a persistent rumor.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I would love to have Aldridge, but there is no way we can have him and Boozer on the same team. In order to make things work for the Bulls, they NEED to get rid of Boozer. A front court of Boozer/LA would be a disaster on defense and Thibs would probably quit (jk...but....).

    I love Noah and think it would be a mistake to trade him, for LA I might do it. Again, it comes back to who is presently on the Bulls roster. If you trade Noah, you don't have any true centers on the team. Instead, you have 3 PFs, 2 of whom aren't good at defense. Now I know Miami has rendered the C spot somewhat less effective, but given the Bulls roster construction, 2 PFs doens't work for them, especially when one of them is Boozer.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    As usual, you got half the story. Denver wanted Noah and Deng for Melo, plus other future assets. It was never Noah for Melo straight up. And Portland wants Noah and at least 2 other assets at least equivalent to 2 first round picks.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Boozer is not an asset. No way Portland touches him. So a deal can't be done.

  • I think dumb lucking their way to Derrick Rose trumps any luck Morey has gotten. Bulls have let a lot of assets walk for no return (See Ben Gordon and Asik) and have failed constantly when given the chance to swing for the fences and make big moves.

    They can plan all they want but those idiots are the ones who not only gave Boozer max deal when they were the only team left with big cap room. But they turned around and gave him a sign and trade to get him an extra year! Even then I said that was pure stupid.

    Sure we can just make excuses for their constant failures but outside of Stern gifting us Derrick Rose and Thibs hand picking the Bulls as his destination we would be little more than the 76ers of recent memory. A team going nowhere fast and management that isn't creative enough to fix the issue.

  • In reply to Chad:

    The Bulls have had an utter crapload of high lottery picks in the wrong drafts. Given the amount of high picks, them getting a star talent in the draft isn't "dumb luck". Getting Rose in particular was, but they had played lousy for about six straight years trying to get a star and had picked at the top of the lottery for much of that time.

  • Reece1 is right. More than luck. Bulls FO burned bridges with past stars. Houston included them in the pitch. Houston had the ideal coach for their target, hof big man. Rocket player recruited incl. Harden. Huge differences.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    This is sort of silly.

    Pippen works for the front office presently and would absolutely be part of their pitch. Michael Jordan owns another team and absolutely would not be part of the pitch regardless of what they would have done with him previously.

    There aren't any other relevant stars for them to bring in.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    When did Pippen get involved with the Bulls FO? But more importantly, is it your assertion that it's more bad luck that the GOAT and perhaps the best coach of all-time have no relationship with the team they are associated with? IMHO, this wasn't luck but the fallout for Reinsdorf's backing Krause and breaking up the dynasty.

    I see you neglected to touch upon the other two points: Harden and McHale. Bulls had nothing similar.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    Maybe it was destined that PJax and MJ get involved with other teams, but Reinsdorf actively ensured that would happen.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    You're certainly correct about Jackson. It's a shame the Bulls don't have a better relationship with him.

    I think the relationship with Jordan is a bummer but irrelevant now that he's a competing owner as no matter what it was he wouldn't stump for us either way. As it stands, I think the fact that Jordan just wanted to be gifted a part of the franchise and replace Krause as chief decision maker means I put more of the onus on that parting with Jordan than Reinsdorf. He had roles in the organization open to him, just not the one he wanted and was completely unqualified or and has been lousy at ever since.

    The fact that Harden recruited and Rose isn't is somewhat of an issue for Chicago, not sure how to get Rose to change his mind on that one. I think Thibodeau is absolutely a better coach than McHale, but I'm not sure how the various players weigh that as Thibodeau may have a reputation as more of a hard ass.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    That's silly. :> Thibs had never been head coach when Lebron had to make up his mind.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    As for Pippen, I think it was two years ago he was hired as official team ambassador or some other such fluff job the Bulls paid him to do.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Again, after the Lebron decision.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    Fair enough, I wasn't aware you were directly discussing just the LeBron decision since we were on Howard and Howard decided against the Bulls with both in place.

    That said, Pippen came out and spoke out against Dwyane Wade in 2010 when Wade said the Bulls weren't loyal (or at least I thought that was the case).

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    Jordan hated the bulls so much he took Tyrus Thomas off of their hands, and threw in a first round pick to boot....

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    It's not silly at all. Rein$dorf burned bridges with Phil Jackson, MJ, and Pippen. That had an effect that lasted for many years and there is still a residual effect remaining It's not enough to point to low-end guys like Randy Brown, Stacey King, even John Paxson, etc. and say "See, Bulls have good relationships with former players!" Rein$dorf fired Jackson (thereby cleverly firing Jordan, since MJ was emphatic Phil was only coach he'd play for) in the midst of the greatest championship run since the 60s, and refused to renegotiate Pippen's massively underpaid contract while he was an All-Star and Champion.

    Do you get that? Rein$dorf fired the greatest player and greatest coach of all-time in the midst of a dominant championship run - and that decision was made during the 5th championship season. It was a PURE POWER PLAY by Rein$dorf and he replaced them with YesMen. The effects still linger around the NBA. I can't imagine any top GM would want to work for Rein$dorf knowing the constraints that would be placed upon them.

    And just in case the residual effect was waning, let's renew it by firing your head coaches top assistant and best friend. Good head coaches ALWAYS get to choose their top assistant! Another power play that will sour top GMs or coaches on Rein$dorf's Bulls. You don't think Thibs now has regrets about resigning? Haven't heard a peep out of Thibs since the Ron Adams firing.

  • Doug, I realize you can't slam the Bulls organization all the time or else what's the point of being a supposed Bulls fans blog if their really that god awful as a franchise? I get it. And yes the bitching does get old. But the frustration borne out of watching an offense of mostly starless talent since.. well since Michael Jordan played is legitimate. A lot of money and emotion has been poured into this team for well over a decade post M.J..

    "Well, hey, they were a 60 win team and they made it to the second round without Rose etc." Come on man.Their offense sucks. Even Rose looked bad against Indiana and Miami because he had no counter talent to deflect attention from himself.

    Wait, here comes the Cavalry, Richard "The Mutiny" Hamilton and his injury intern Hinrich McKlank. JLIII woo boy. One dimensional non-prolific Korver, and yes the post mega tax availability of Nate and Belinelli on the cheap both who showed signs of being decent players before they came here.The offense needs better talent and another star period.

    Lottery bad luck(pre-Pose) or not there were other teams pursuing exciting offensive talent for fans to enjoy and sometimes venturing over the cap into the luxury tax. The Bulls top national media market and most profitable money raking NBA franchise.. uh sorry fans, give us your money and then go f-ck yourselves. You complained about the same thing yourself numerous times.

    Indeed, NBA fans are here because they love watching offensive studs like Michael, Scottie, Hakeem, Durant, LeBron, Wade(pre-knees), Howard(pre-back and brain implosion), Westbrook, Tony Parker, Carmelo etc. Not hollow 60 win seasons in a watered down league authored largely by Thib's defense as much as anything.

    You are defending the Bulls organization quite vociferously, yet it was you yourself that just last summer RAILED against the front office for not taking advantage of a golden opportunity to cash in the impending declining Deng for Sacramento's No.5 Every NBA insider including the entire NBATV draft team said that pick in the wake of the Mega Tax shock was in play. But the Bulls wouldn't take back any bad salaries. Even after how many years of just ridiculous, over the top profits?!

    Damian Lillard playing next to Derrick Rose at SG. Bloggers rip that notion just as they rip the Noah for Aldridge trade simply because they downplay toys they know they can't have. If we had made that trade Bulls fans would have been falling all over themselves and the hits on your blog similar to the arrival of Derrick Rose would have skyrocketed. Same if we acquired Aldridge people would be saying Joakim(injuries galore 41 and 43% field goals two of the last three playoffs) who?

    Actually, Carmelo said he was stunned that the Bulls refused to offer Joakim Noah for him. I don't think he would have been adamantly opposed to playing with D-Rose if the Bulls would have shown the kind of ardent interest and courtship successful recruiters of big name free agents do. And now what name free agents want to come to an organization that leaves a granted poorly advised/thinking player, but an MVP player twisting in the wind? I sure as hell wouldn't.

    People aren't saying much about last season's fiasco with Rose "I might play tomorrow or I might play next year." There's no way a smart, fan friendly franchise doesn't end that highly negative stalemate and just say look we're shutting him down rather then just saying, "Well the doctors say he's cleared to play(but the lazy bastard won't)" Granted Rose's "people" f-ed him as well as he did himself.

    Nonetheless, that was beyond botched and follow that up with quieting Ron Adams not discreetly through Thibs so they could keep his favorite partner, but instead Gar bug eyes Forman firing him. Pax grabs coaches by the collar..?? Come on Doug, Thibs picked the Bulls not the other way around because of Derrick Rose. Not for the shoddy, cheapness record and reputation of the Chicago Bulls franchise.

    Gar Forman and John Paxson lucked into two things that have put the Bulls on the map of NBA relevance: Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose. Now they have pissed down both their backs and told them it's raining. Sorry Doug but drafting Omer(who they lost for nothing excuses aside), Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler doesn't change the fact these guys are real f-ckups. And both family raised, beholden to the owner not fan's friend pursuing exciting talent and winning comes first.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    I wasn't thrilled about some of the decisions the FO has made in the past years, but it's somewhat moot to drag up decisions about Melo, Deng, etc. Anyone can play the "what if" game. Can there be ANY type of optimism allowed?

    People so quickly forget that Rose was a top 5 player in the league before his ACL tear. No guarantees he comes back to that level, but there's not much tinkering that can be done. We overpaid Boozer, yes that is a fact. I'm annoyed with him but there's not much that can be done about that now. I'm annoyed that they let Omer walk away too, but there's no way you can play Asik and Noah together, especially with Rose. It would clog up the lane too much. Taj isn't much better but at least he spaces the floor better than Asik.

    I'm surprised at how people are so quick to doubt the Bulls when Rose is coming back and the Heat looked VERY beatable in the playoffs. They went from "one of the best teams ever" in the regular season with the streak, to nearly getting beaten by the Pacers, and then one free throw away from losing to the Spurs in game 6.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    I don't know. You're free to your opinion, but to go on and on and on and on about how an organization never does anything right and the sky is falling when they are a top five team in the NBA, had the best record in two of the past three years, and would have been one of the top 2-3 records last year if it weren't for missing their best player seems a bit dramatic.

    Yeah, there are things they screw up, and I definitely will go at ownership when they are being cheap and would have done so again this year if they refused to use the MMLE. However, they didn't go cheap this year, so I'm not going to whine just to whine.

    The Bulls front office is one of the better ones in the NBA IMO despite their faults/flaws.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    No star scorers.To me, entertainment wise, yes that means the sky is falling.

    I think you just love the Bulls in some ways unconditionally. Which in a sense is what a true fan does. Good for you. Seriously, that's a fine thing.

    Really though, if you don't get pissed at the way they handled their end of Derrick's botched, from a fan and media aspect, recovery then so be it. It's just shit like that that pisses me off. I liked Derrick a lot, and I thought the way they handled all that was just bullshit. In some ways I think Forman and Paxson are petty. Not that Derricks d-bag brother Reggie, Addidas, "the family" and whoever else is in his "camp" didn't equally screw up.

    I don't like Forman and I don't like that the Bulls haven't managed to bring in one star scorer since Jordan left. B.G. for a couple of years fine exception noted. Aldridge a star scorring big in his prime I think likely could be had, but the Bulls won't do it and again I'm tired of no star scoring talent as I'm sure Derrick is as well. Enough! Get a fricking all star scoring talent in here already your the third largest most profitable g-dmned market in the country.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    All depends who you ask about the Bulls joke of a FO. A lot of homer Bulls fans feel like the Bulls FO can do no wrong while other fans that has some common sens knows better.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    IMO the people who think the Bulls front office are terrible are the homer fans since they judge the Bulls FO at a standard they don't hold the rest of the league to. Any objective fan would have to say given the Bulls' recent record the front office is at the very least above average.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Spot on Shakes.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    assuming that the bulls could have gotten the 5th pick for Deng, which by the way the couldn't have, the Bulls would not have taken Damien Lillard with that pick because they had Rose, even though he was injured. Not sure who they would have taken, could have been Barnes, could have been Drummond, but it certainly would not have been Lillard.

  • Any thoughts on the Wayne Ellington rumor?

  • In reply to Sluggers:

    Haven't heard it, but I can't imagine the Bulls are bringing in a guy like Ellington after drafting Snell and adding Dunleavy. They need either a big man or a shot creator for their 13th spot.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Unless they were going to trade Deng?

  • I heard Antwan Jamison. Don't the bulls need backup center?

  • Great points and article Doug, totally agree and wish more people would take an honest look at what they perceive as shortcomings.

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