Alex Kennedy: Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns didn’t make a splashy addition, but general manager Ryan McDonough deserves a ton of credit for getting such an excellent return for mercurial power forward Markieff Morris. The 26-year-old was traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick (which is top-nine protected), as well as Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair (who each have non-guaranteed salaries for next season).
It’s very possible that the Wizards will have to part ways with that first-round pick in June, which would be a big steal for the Suns. It’s worth noting that Phoenix could have as many as three first-round picks in this upcoming draft (their own pick, the Wizards’ pick and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pick). They could either use those picks to add prospects and further their rebuild, or they could try to package them with some of their young players to put together an attractive trade offer.
Morris did just about everything he could to sink his trade value over the last year, which is why getting a first-round pick in exchange for him is so impressive.
To recap: Morris got charged for felony aggravated assault, demanded a trade once the Suns moved his brother, became a distraction entering training camp due to his public criticism of the team, received a two-game suspension for throwing a towel at former head coach Jeff Hornacek, choked and argued with teammate Archie Goodwin during a game, posted his worst statistics since becoming a starter and more.
Phoenix started playing Morris way more in recent weeks to showcase him to other teams, and it seems that his trade value was helped by his strong play in February. This month, Morris averaged 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and one steal while shooting 44.8 percent from the field.
While Morris’ play helped the Suns, it’s still surprising that McDonough was able to persuade the Wizards to give up expiring contracts and what could end up being a lottery pick. Morris’ contract has three years and $24 million remaining on it after this season. Many people around the NBA thought Phoenix would dump Morris rather than get valuable assets back for him. But not only did McDonough manage to get a first-rounder, he didn’t take back any salary or give up additional pieces in the deal.
This may say more about the state of the Wizards than anything. Washington was desperate to shake up their roster in some way after failing to live up to lofty expectations so far this season.
The Wizards were expected to be a contender this season, but they currently sit outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference’s 10th place. They’re hoping that getting 100 percent healthy and adding Morris can revitalize their squad.
Even if the move does work out for Washington, Phoenix has to be considered one of the winners of the trade deadline since the haul they received for Morris was way better than anyone expected.