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Daryl Morey Talks Draft And Other Off-season Plans

Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey discusses the state of the team prior to the NBA Draft

Thursday afternoon, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey discussed where his team stands with exactly one week remaining until the NBA Draft. What follows is a transcipt of that discussion:

What are your initial thoughts on the team's place in this year’s draft?

DM: We’re excited. We really like the draft. We like the players we’ll get in this range. We were looking at it and, the past couple of years, we were picking 14 and one year we liked eight guys and another year we liked ten guys, so we were sweating it quite a bit. This year we feel comfortable that there’s at least 16 guys we think are solid picks. We feel like we’re going to leave the draft with two very good players assuming we don’t move around, trade, things like that.

You have a lot of pieces to play with heading into this offseason, right?

DM: Yeah, I think so. Obviously our history is we’ll be aggressive. Mr. Alexander really doesn’t accept status quo and is a very competitive guy so we’re going to continue to be aggressive. But the nice thing is we can be aggressive not out of desperation, but out of having two very good picks that teams will want. We have another player, Donatas Motiejunas, coming over that we’re excited about, so we have a bunch of really high upside guys that we’re going to add to the roster and hopefully show on the court next year what they can do.

What's the latest update on Motiejunas?

DM: As soon as we’re allowed to sign him, which looks like it will be very early July, we plan to sign him and then he’ll play for our summer league team and become part of the program here.

Does what you do in the draft determine how aggressive you’ll be in the free agent market?

DM: They’re pretty unrelated. I think in general we’re in the mode of trying to add players who are either right now All-Star caliber guys sort of like the trade that we did that didn’t end up happening, or add guys we think are high upside guys who could become All-Star types.

You’ve wanted to move up in the last few drafts as well. Do you feel like you have a better chance of doing that this year?

DM: I think it’s always hard. I think teams fall in love with who they might get so it’s very hard, unless you’re already top-10, to move within the top-10. I think if there is a move up option it will be for a couple spots versus a big leap. We would like to move quite a bit up but I think that’s unrealistic.

The nice thing is that after maybe the first three-to-five guys, it’s pretty flat. We could easily get someone who we might rank six or seven at 14, just because it’s very unpredictable after the first three-to-five picks in this draft.

Do you feel pressure that this is a huge offseason for you after having not made the playoffs the last three years?

DM: I think you have to continue to stay the course, stay with the plan. Obviously we’re all frustrated that we haven’t been a playoff team; that’s not something that’s acceptable. But I think worse would be to be impatient and to make moves that are very short term based when the reality is we need to add players. If that trade we had made had gone through, then you’re making more short term moves similar to how we added Ron Artest when we had Yao and Tracy. I think you need to keep the big picture in mind otherwise you can make mistakes in terms of losing your cap flexibility or losing your trade ability or hurting your draft status.

Did the deal that just happened between Washington and New Orleans bring any clarity to the big picture?

DM: It impacted free agency because now instead ofWashington having room to be in free agency it’s New Orleans. I think that was probably the biggest impact.

From a trade standpoint there are some big names out there right now. Does their potential availability impact deals you may or may not make on draft day because you might want to bide your time to see what ends up happening with these other players?

DM: We don’t bide our time. As soon as there’s a deal out there that we think helps our team, we’ll do it.

Do you think you have more pieces than ever to help put together the puzzle?

DM: Yeah, I think this is the second year without Yao. Obviously people see it as bigger but it’s really the second year without his contract commitments. So now this is our first year where we’re going to have cap room and I think cap room is a really good tool to create upgrades.

From a trade perspective, yeah, I think we’ve got more to work with than we’re ever had to work with, and from a draft perspective as well. Now all that adds up to is not enough on the floor yet to be a playoff team, but it does give us our best hand that we’ve had to work with. Whereas in the past where we might have had the 3-7 off-suited, now we’ve got maybe a pocket pair of 8s or something (laughs). So we’re going to continue to try to upgrade our ability to pull off the move or draft someone who’s got upside or have one of our players who we very much believe in who we think could take a step forward as well.

Goran Dragic expressed significant interest in returning to Houston recently. How do you feel about where that situation stands?

DM: We agree. I mean he’s wearing Rockets jerseys already so I feel like it’s already done (laughs). We plan to bring Goran Dragic back. Obviously there’s some days between the desire and making that happen, but I think he wants to be here, we want him here and that’s the best start you can have. We can’t really talk specifics until we get to that period but the fact that there’s mutual interest, and not just a little but a lot, gives it a good chance to happen.

How do you make it work from a timing standpoint where you want to get a deal done but a free agent might want to see how things develop first?

DM: I think the reality is it’s always (a situation) where we’ll want to get something done early. I agree, they may want to wait but our business as a franchise is to add good players and if they can’t commit early then it obviously creates some risk for him to end up in the situation I think he wants to end up in. But my sense is we will get it done early. That’s our hope.