The Rockets did well in the 2007 NBA draft, getting Aaron Brooks with the No. 26 pick and Carl Landry with the No. 31 pick. Teams rarely find solid contributors that deep in the draft.
But this particular draft had a future star available – Marc Gasol, whom the Lakers took No. 48.
How did Houston miss him? Analytically inclined Rockets general manager Daryl Morey even had indicators predicting Gasol’s success.
Michael Lewis in “The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds,” via Slate:
For instance, in the 2007 draft there had been a player his model really liked: Marc Gasol. Gasol was twenty-two years old, a seven-foot-one center playing in Europe. The scouts had found a photograph of him shirtless. He was pudgy and baby-faced and had these jiggly pecs. The Rockets staff had given Marc Gasol a nickname: Man Boobs. Man Boobs this and Man Boobs that. “That was my first draft in charge and I wasn’t so brave,” said Morey. He allowed the general ridicule of Marc Gasol’s body to drown out his model’s optimism about Gasol’s basketball future, and so instead of arguing with his staff, he watched the Memphis Grizzlies take Gasol with the 48th pick of the draft. The odds of getting an All-Star with the 48th pick in the draft were well below one in a hundred. The 48th pick of the draft basically never even yielded a useful NBA bench player, but already Marc Gasol was proving to be a giant exception. (Gasol became a two-time All-Star in 2012 and 2015 and, by Houston’s reckoning, the third-best pick made by the entire NBA over the past decade, after Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.) The label they’d stuck on him clearly had affected how they valued him: names mattered. “I made a new rule right then,” said Morey. “I banned nicknames.”
But Gasol’s poor conditioning should’ve made Morey even more inclined to pick him. Gasol produced well despite being overweight. Getting in better shape presented a clear path to improvement unavailable to players already in elite shape.
That Morey would ban nicknames is an interesting response – one of the many insights into Morey’s thought processes revealed by Lewis. I highly recommend reading the entire available excerpt of his book.