#3 The signing of Carmelo Anthony after the departures of Ariza and Mbah a Moute
Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute were key pieces in the Houston Rockets' roster during their tremendous 2017-18 season, with the chemistry between them and their teammates proving very fruitful for the franchise. But Daryl Morey chose not to bring them back.
The duo hit free agency and ultimately signed contacts to leave the first-seed Houston Rockets. That meant that the Houston Rockets and Daryl Morey found themselves needing to replace two key players in their roster.
Daryl Morey also traded the big contract of Ryan Anderson, another forward who could shoot well and was an efficient three-point shooter. That was because Morey thought that Carmelo Anthony was a piece the team could rely the most among other players like Gerald Green added to the Houston Rockets roster.
However, after a 6-7 start for the Houston Rockets in the 2018-19 season, Anthony looked like a misfit, and the team did not look like the squad that pushed the 2018 Golden State Warriors to seven games in the WCF.
Of course, in that off-season, the team was hindered by Chris Paul's huge contract and Clint Capela's deal too, so the situation for Daryl Morey was not ideal at all.
#2 Trading Clint Capela
On 5 February 2020, the Houston Rockets and Daryl Morey decided that their chances to win an NBA title after getting out of Chris Paul's contract were going to receive a boost if they went all out with their small-ball philosophy.
Clint Capela and Nene were traded by Daryl Morey to the Atlanta Hawks in a blockbuster deal where the Houston Rockets received Jordan Bell and Robert Covington from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Daryl Morey's decision drew some interesting analysis as it seemed to be paying off initially. The Houston Rockets beat the LA Lakers in Los Angeles in their first match after the trade and won six of their next eight games.
However, in the NBA Playoffs, the Houston Rockets struggled to get past the CP3-led OKC Thunder in the first round before falling to the Lakers in the Western Conference semi-finals.
In that five-game series, the Lakers averaged 45 rebounds per game against the Houston Rockets' 32. In fact, the Lakers also grabbed more defensive rebounds (181) in the series than the Rockets' had total rebounds (163), which meant that the absence of Capela (or any other big man) was acutely felt.
#1 The 2018 off-season
The Houston Rockets had a historic 2017-18 NBA regular season as the team won 65 games and posed a threat to the all-conquering Kevin Durant-led Golden State Warriors after Daryl Morey traded for CP3.
In the Western Conference Finals that season, the Houston Rockets, however, lost a seven-game series to Golden State after Chris Paul suffered an injury after Houston had the momentum.
In the final year of his contract, Paul was due to become a free agent, but the Houston Rockets wanted the then 33-year-old to remain with the team. Even the team owner Tillman Fertitta expressed his desire to have Paul and Capela back.
However, with Daryl Morey focusing on the duo, the Houston Rockets lost their squad depth when Ariza and Mbah a Moute left via free agency, and then when Morey traded Ryan Anderson on a 'big' contract, it all seemed weird. Two years later, neither Paul (signed a four-year $160 million contract) or Capela (five-year, $90 million) are with the team as both were traded.
The team owner said that signing Paul again at that time was a 'must' for the Rockets while also wanting to keep Capela. However, focusing on the two players meant that the Rockets were out of contention for LeBron James who was leaving Cleveland.
Two years later, Daryl Morey has exited the Houston Rockets. But his choices between May 2018 and August 2018 were probably the catalysts for what came next.
Currently, the Houston Rockets do not have a coach (though the likes of former New York Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy are being interviewed with Daryl Morey's help). They also do not have a GM, although Rafael Stone will be taking over the role (he was the executive VP of basketball operations under Daryl Morey).