Daryl Morey calls Royce White arguably ‘the worst first-round pick ever’

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The Houston Rockets selected Royce White with the No. 16 pick in the 2012 draft.

He spent a year with the Rockets while anxiety issues kept him from being with the team and was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, who cut him before this season began. At this point, it appears to be a huge longshot White will ever play in the NBA.

Since 1972, just five other players have been drafted that high without playing in the NBA:

  • Nerlens Noel (No. 6 in 2013 by 76ers)
  • Lucas Nogueira (No. 16 in 2013 by Hawks)
  • Fran Vasquez (No. 11 in 2005 by Magic)
  • Frederic Weis (No. 15 in 1999 by Knicks)
  • Len Bias (No. 2 in 1986 by Celtics)

Noel will obviously get on the court, perhaps as early as this season. Nogueira has plenty of time to come stateside.

That leaves White in rare, though not quite unprecedented, company as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey suggests.

Morey, via Ben DuBose of ClutchFans (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball):

“I take some sort of pride that you could argue that Royce White is the worst first-round pick ever. He’s the only one that never played a minute in the NBA that wasn’t just a foreign guy staying in Europe. It just shows we swing for the fence,” Morey quipped.

    White isn’t the worst first-round pick ever, and Morey doesn’t believe that.

    Analytically inclined people like Morey are process-oriented, not result-oriented. Morey has sound reasons for drafting White, whose basketball talent dictated he should have gone much higher in the draft. Concerns about his anxiety issues rightly pushed him down draft boards, but the reward outweighed the risk where Morey selected him.

    That logic matters more to Morey than whether White actually panned out as an NBA player. Calculated risks aren’t bad moves if the calculations were correct, regardless of how the hand unfolds.

    If Morey just means based on results, Bias, who died from cocaine overdose days after the draft, was a worse pick by that standard. After all, he was drafted 14 spots higher than White.

    But it seems a little cold to debate whether a player who died or a player who couldn’t overcome his anxiety issues was the worst first-round pick of all time, which leads to my final and most-significant point.

    Isn’t it a little insensitive for Morey to publicly chastise a person whose mental state has caused himself great distress? White didn’t work out in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve compassion.

    It’s one thing to discuss how and why White didn’t make the NBA, but it’s another thing to single him out as “the worst first-round pick ever” when the standard used to select him doesn’t even put him at the bottom of the list. This just feels like unfairly piling on.

    Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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    The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

    Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

    At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson, and the Rockets have reached out to him. C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

    Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

    Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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    DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

    The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

    “Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

    Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

    “I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

    This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

    His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

    Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

    That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

    “The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

    In other words, the type of player teammates love.

    Is Howard?

    Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

    https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

    Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

    Howard walks a fine line.

    He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

    “Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

    It’s just never easy for Howard.

    Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

    “He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

    Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

    It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

    It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

    Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

    Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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    This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

    Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

    Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

    Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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    Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

    Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

    Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

    Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.