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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. footballgod87 - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:45 PM

      Considering all the shots White took at Houston while they were paying him not to play, it seems perfectly fair to me. And I normally side with the player.

      • spthegr8 - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:36 PM

        Uhhhh, ya think Daryl. File this one under the NO S**T category!!!!!

    2. footballgod87 - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:45 PM

      Considering all the shots White took at Houston while they were paying him not to play, it seems perfectly fair to me. And I normally side with the player

    3. knicksmets - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      It is a little unfair but this is a business after all. Royce had a lot of potential it seemed now he would have to fight just to get to the nba again.

      • spursareold - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:58 PM

        He was WAY too wrapped up in his advocacy for Mental health, to the point where it cost him his job. He wanted himself and his doctor to be the final say on whether he played or not on any given night. It’s a shame, too, because I think he had, and still has, a ton of basketball potential. If he can wrap his head around the fact that he doesn’t call the shots, another team may give him a chance down the road. He’ll have to come to someone hat in hand, though. I can’t really see any teams reaching out to him anytime soon.

        • strictlythedanks - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:02 AM

          Having gone to high school with him I can say he certainly wasnt the sharpest tool in the shed.

        • eugenesaxe1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:47 AM

          He was way too wrapped up in self-promotion.

        • mogogo1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 5:14 PM

          Advocating for mental health didn’t bother me. What did bother me is I never really thought he gave it an honest try. I sympathize with his issues, but he somehow managed to play in college, make it to practices, do some classwork, etc. Granted way more pressure in the NBA and longer seasons, but he was arguing with Houston over everything before he’d even had the opportunity for things to get to him. They supposedly had the travel part worked out initially yet he still ended up fighting with them over that. By the end it looked like he was seeking excuse not to have to play.

    4. marcusfitzhugh - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:54 PM

      As a Knicks, Jets (stop laughing and let me get to the punch line), and Yankees fan, I’m confused by the artcle’s nomenclature. Exactly what is this “compassion” spoken of?

      Seriously though, I hope the guy gets the help he needs and can live a productive non-NBA life with the guaranteed $3M he got from the Rockets. Its rare that a 21 year old can handle that type of money, but lets hope he’s the exception. As for the rest of you, back to work.

    5. conjecture101 - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:55 PM

      So now every decision Morey makes, people will try to argue why it was an “analytical” decision. Please spare us the narrative. Executives have been taking chances on talented players with some potential issues for decades. There is nothing particularly “analytical” about it, especially in the sports context of the word. Morey is not splitting the atom, and the more every one of his transactions is applauded for its non-existent analytical genius, it will prove only that this whole “analytics” movement is nothing more then a fad.

    6. timb12 - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:58 PM

      Morey was making fun of himself a little bit for drafting the guy. He’s not chastising him or saying he should go die. He was just a bad pick in hindsight. Probably at the time too lol.

    7. thomaskouns - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      At the end of the day, to get paid you have to play.

      Though I have an odd feeling that when Royce’s checks stop coming in the mail at the end of this year (he still gets paid through 13-14), he’ll have a magical change of heart. Just a guess…

    8. thraiderskin - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:07 PM

      After these comments, its make you wonder why that GM has a job… Swing for the fences? yeah any one of the readers on this site can do that.

      • mcmystery76 - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:36 PM

        Morey is one of, if not the best, GM in the game

        • asimonetti88 - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:48 PM

          People say this, and I just don’t get it. Since Morey took over, the Rockets have made it out of the first round a total of once, to the Conference Semifinals in 2009. They have not had a losing record under him, which is impressive, but I have a hard time saying that a guy whose team has never made a deep playoff run is the “best GM” or even “one of the best”. Until the Rockets make a deep playoff run, let’s call him what he is: “above average”.

        • smoothaswilkes - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:11 PM

          asimonetti88 – checkout his draft picks and trades starting in 2006, which was picking Rudy Gay and trading him away through last year, Morey has, arguably, had the best drafts over the past seven years. All that young talent with low paying contracts are now melded with his recent trades and FA signings, you know Howard and Harden being the centerpieces. So yeah, he is definitely one of the best GMs in the game. That isn’t debatable. As for wins, the Rockets have gotten the most of their roster during Morey’s tenure and have only missed the playoffs 3 times in the last 7 seasons. Now with all the pieces there, for the most part, Houston is now in the conversation for winning the championship – I don’t think they will but still they are correctly in the conversation.

        • spthegr8 - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:22 PM

          You are 100% right. He’s good but ppl make it seem like he is better than he really is and I’m not hating on him, I think he is good. Just not as good as ppl make him out to be.

        • borderline1988 - Jan 27, 2014 at 10:57 PM

          He is really good, because he hasn’t had the benefit of getting lucky in the draft like other teams at the top of the Western Conference, nor is Houston generally considered a quality destination that inherently attracts stars regardless of the team (Miami, NY, LA, Boston, etc). He’s building his team by attracting superstar FAs, swinging trades for all-stars, and signing quality role players.

          His track record of understanding which young players have potential and which don’t (Royce White notwithstanding) is pretty good.

          He’s done the best with the least. To me, that’s more impressive than what OKC has done, even Portland.
          Houston and Indiana have both shown that it’s possible to build contenders without having multiple top-5 draft picks turning into stars or being a destination city and luring a superstar. That gives hope to many teams around the NBA, like Phoenix or Toronto.

        • spursareold - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:17 AM

          I’m not a huge Morey fan, but he gets a pass on this one. They had THREE first rounders in 2012, and White had top 5 basketball talent. There was really no one after him in the first round that stuck out as someone they should have drafted that did REALLY well.

    9. tomtravis76 - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      If he could make it to Europe, some countries have their own pro leagues. So, more opportunity to drive by car, bus, and train. Other than that a career playing pro basketball is out. Ticket sales for Iowa state might fit him well.

      • gameisours - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:04 PM

        He must get to Europe first!

        • eugenesaxe1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:49 AM

          It’s called a “boat”.

    10. gildaymonster - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      Would he have said something so callous if White had Cancer and required Chemo? We have a major problem as a society with how we dismiss and denigrate people with Diseases of the Mind. Shameful.

      I didn’t really believe Royce when he was saying The Rockets weren’t supporting him but comments like that give me real pause..

      • antistratfordian - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        White’s brand of anxiety is something that is not only manageable under the right guidance, but something that, at best, can be essentially eliminated, and without medication. It would be a mistake to lump it in with cancer or any sort of terminal illness.

        He has a bigger problem than anxiety, anyway – and that is he’s a major a-hole. That’s harder to correct.

    11. antistratfordian - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:16 PM

      White’s problems extend beyond anxiety or panic disorder – in addition to that he’s also narcissistic, sociopathic and manipulative. Now it is true that some people criticize him just for his anxiety and urge him to man-up or grow a pair, etc. not knowing how paralyzed someone with severe anxiety actually is. But White’s case is more complex than that, so that’s not where I’m coming from. He could’ve rightly been called something more hurtful than just the worst first round pick ever – so he got off light here, in my estimation.

      • 6thsense10 - Jan 28, 2014 at 6:09 AM

        White reminds me of a Family guy episode where Chris goes out with a girl who has Down’s syndrome but is a major a hole except everyone is scared of calling her on it because of her disability. I’ve seen enough interviews from White. He comes across as someone who would be a difficult employee even without the disability.

    12. braven4evr - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:16 PM

      The person that drafted him knew of his problems before the draft. Now he has guaranteed money that he will never earn. That GM should never get another job anywhere.

    13. ravenswhat - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:30 PM

      Wtf morey, the guy has a legit mental health problem. Show some tact.

      • bdeviled11 - Jan 27, 2014 at 10:47 PM

        “Show some tact”…While also making sure you treat him equal. And everyone, let’s go ahead and excuse any derogatory statements, White or his agent made against the Rockets. Because that is professional! Pleeeaaaaase! Morey has a lot more hits than misses in an era where players, and shoe companies have so much more power than the team.

      • borderline1988 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:08 PM

        The real victims here are people with mental health issues, who (unfortunately) are represented by this prick.

        It’s funny how you can attack Morey for not ‘showing some tact’ – Morey was the guy who took a chance on White, paid him millions of dollars, and gave him a shot at playing in the NBA, where most other GMs probably would have passed on him even further.

        How can Morey not feel bitter against White? White rode him for a couple million dollars, all the while being nothing more than a distraction.

        As another commentator on this board already mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised if White’s situation becomes more amenable for teams once his contract runs out. Mark those words.

    14. azarkhan - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:30 PM

      You might have mentioned that Len Bias overdosed on cocaine shortly after he was drafted (which btw led to the draconian drug sentences we see now, courtesy of Tip O’Neill (D))

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:50 PM

        You might have read the sentence(s) where Bias’ overdose was mentioned.

    15. mackcarrington - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:52 PM

      This is what happens when you only go by the “analytics”.
      Did the “analytics” take into account his mental health?

    16. csbanter - Jan 27, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      Asik and Jeremy Lin = busts. Howard is only slightly better than Tyson Chandler. Rockets GM has other issues than Royce White

    17. JHathwell - Jan 27, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      Daryl Morey is a very complex case. He did a great job maneuvering his way into two superstars, but he basically threw away the teams’ upward mobility on Dwight Howard. If he has a weakness, it’s his fetish for getting superstars at any and all costs. With Howard in the fold, this team won’t even sniff an NBA Title.

      • zeedoubleyou - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:39 PM

        Look at the history of the league. 2003-04 Pistons aside, it takes multiple stars to win a championship.

        • JHathwell - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:27 PM

          Sure…If you have the right ones.

          2011 Mavs as well, btw.

    18. indrathegod - Jan 27, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      Business is business. As crass as it may sound, it’s pretty much reality. The stats shown didn’t necessarily prove him entirely wrong, either.

    19. mrlaloosh - Jan 27, 2014 at 7:50 PM

      Greg Oden? Sam Bowie? Eddie Curry?

      • eugenesaxe1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:52 AM

        They all played.
        Oden’s playing now.
        I believe Curry has a ring.

        • djstickypants - Jan 28, 2014 at 8:52 AM

          Curry has a hemorrhoid ring

    20. mnwildfan15 - Jan 27, 2014 at 10:39 PM

      How does Ndi Ebi not make that list?

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:14 PM

        26th overall pick vs. 16th overall pick. And Ebi actually played in the NBA (well, if you call what he did on the court playing).

        • brewdogg - Feb 3, 2014 at 2:52 AM

          You can’t…..But then again, you could say that for a lot of the Twolves 1st round big men. Paul Grant, anyone?

    21. jolink653 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      Frederick Weis will be here any day now! Scott Layden promised us that Weis was coming. If you can’t trust Layden, who can you trust?

    22. program33 - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:54 AM

      Truth of matter is it was a mistake to pick him. Why pick a person that will not be with the team a majority of the time. It hurts the teams chances of success on so many levels.

    23. eugenesaxe1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:58 AM

      There’s no argument about it. He’s not a Euro who decided he wanted to stay home. He didn’t die before he had a chance to play. He’s just stupid and arrogant.

    24. 00maltliquor - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:08 AM

      Two words. Darko. Milicic.

      That is it.

      • spursareold - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        Darko was a bust, but he PLAYED. Can you read?

        • 00maltliquor - Jan 28, 2014 at 1:05 PM

          No. I can’t. The person who reads these articles to me took the day off.

    25. 00maltliquor - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:10 AM

      …………but let’s re-visit this article in a few years and see how Anthony Bennett turned out!

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