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

Jan 27, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT

Royce White

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.

    1. monkeyhateclean - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      I know this guy has burned too many bridges by now, but I wonder why no team ever considered an “only home games” contract?

      They could have found some creative way to work in a reduced or pro-rated salary for a guy with that kind of upside, maybe even a roster exemption by the league (working with someone fighting a mental health disorder = good PR).

      The 12th man on an NBA roster might travel with the team, but how many minutes does he play? 41 games from White would probably be more valuable than 82 from your team’s twelfth.

      • spursareold - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        The NBA isn’t too fond of this kid, either. Houston wasn’t the only entity he attacked in his quest to advocate for mental illness. They’re not likely to grant any kind of exception. If you sign him, you must pay him the full minimum salary at the very least, even if he only plays home games.

    2. lhollis74 - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      White needs to just go away, if you can’t fulfill the requirements to do the job (flying), then your candidacy should be terminated, end of story! Anxiety!? Let’s call it what it is, fear! Hundreds if not thousands of planes fly daily! With the minimal number of incidents, I’d have to say those fears are not justified! This was more about white winning his personal battle than more than conquering an obstacle that’s between him and a lucrative career. Lazy weak minded people find plenty of reasons not to work when their bank account is full, let’s see what happens when that’s not the case in a year or so.

      • chuckleberry1974 - Feb 2, 2014 at 1:01 AM

        If that’s all the very really mental disorder known as anxiety was, you’d be right. But where you’re wrong, obviously, is that anxiety is irrational. It’s a disorder, and despite his ability to know intellectually that flying is safe and whatever other anxieties he had were safe, his anxiety prevents him from actually doing it. It’s not as simple as saying anxiety is just fear. Why would you claim that anxiety equals fear? Because you think fear is for cowards, and it makes it easier for you to bash this man. Whatever his issues are, they are a genuine mental disorder, not something to be mocked. And finally, the implication that he is lazy and weak-minded might be more about you and your shortsightedness than Mr. White.

        • adamsjohn714 - Feb 2, 2014 at 1:37 AM

          Thumbs up! Exactly right. Anxiety is a real issue, and people who dismiss it as something you can just “get over” show their ignorance.

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