As we settle in on the last few weeks of the 2015 offseason, there still seems to be at least one unresolved matter around the league. That matter being Markieff Morris wanted to be traded from the Phoenix Suns.
Morris has been unhappy with the Suns since July when they traded his twin brother, Marcus, to the Detroit Pistons. As a result of that trade, Markieff told the Philadelphia Inquirer last month that he will be out of Phoenix by the time training camp starts at the end of this month. He reiterated those same demands in a tweet on Thursday.
— Keef Morris (@Keefmorris) September 4, 2015
His demands have put the team in an awkward position. The Suns are in no way obligated to trade Morris, despite his demands. He begins the first year of a four-year, $32 million extension this season, which he signed last September. The team is fairly thin at the power forward position and likely won’t deal him just for the sake of dealing him.
It seems at this point, Morris’ best course of action is to show up for training camp and put all of this behind him for the time being. He can prove to the Suns, and other teams in the league, that he can handle this situation professionally. Also, playing well would increase his trade value, which is extremely low at the moment given how he’s handled this situation and his pending legal trouble stemming from a January incident that resulted in an assault charge.
If Morris can become a model citizen in Phoenix during training camp and the beginning of the regular season (and produce at a high level), the team may begin to entertain the idea of trading him. If he doesn’t show up to training camp, the team can fine him without pay or even suspend him. Morris told the Inquirer that he knows he has to show up, but still believed that he’d be traded before it got to that point.
If and when the Suns make it known they’re open to trading Morris, which teams could be potential suitors? Here are five teams that could be a possible destination for Morris (in no particular order):
It’s unclear at this time what the Suns would be seeking in return for Morris, but it’s fair to say that they likely won’t be getting fair value in return given Morris’ current issues. Since the Raptors lost Amir Johnson this summer, the power forward position has been seemingly in need of an upgrade. While Patrick Patterson has proved to be a solid backup off of the bench, is he ready to step up and start? Is Luis Scola, whom the team signed this summer, still capable of providing big production as a starter? The Raptors have been aggressive this summer in free agency and seem to be going all-in on this season. Acquiring Morris from the Suns would give the team a legitimate starter and someone who can provide 15 points and six rebounds a game, as he did last season. It’s also worth noting that the Raptors tried to trade for a power forward – such as David West – prior to last year’s trade deadline (and that was with Amir Johnson still on the roster).
If the Suns come calling to the Raptors, odds are that they’ll inquire about Terrence Ross. He’s set to earn just $3,553,917 this season and will become a restricted free agent next summer. Toronto may feel inclined to let Ross go if they feel he isn’t worth what he could garner in free agency. After Ross, the Suns will be limited in who they can acquire from the Raptors if they decide to trade Morris prior to the start of the season, as all of the Raptors’ new additions this summer can’t be traded until December. That leaves players like Patterson, Ross, James Johnson, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo as the only options for the time being (as well as draft picks, obviously). But if the Suns want to hold off on trading Morris, then those new additions like DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Scola, Bismack Biyombo and Ronald Roberts will become available.
One position in Orlando that is far from settled on is power forward. The team signed former Suns forward Channing Frye last summer to a four-year, $32 million deal. But last season the Magic were unsure of where to use Frye and while he started some games early in the year, they eventually brought him off of the bench and at times played him sparingly. He averaged just 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from three-point range. He fell out of the rotation late in the season and his role on the team moving forward has still yet to be determined.
The Magic also have last year’s fourth overall pick in Aaron Gordon. He was injured for some time last season and we’ve yet to see what he can do. He had a great Summer League showing, as he unveiled an improved jump shot, but he will enter the season with a fractured jaw. Tobias Harris can also be an option at the four spot, but new head coach Scott Skiles may want to keep him at the three (and Harris has made it clear he prefers to play small forward).
Orlando could be an interesting fit for Morris. It seems as though Morris could step into the lineup and contribute well. He’d be a good fit next to the team’s young core and could really help them improve. Frye was loved during his time in Phoenix and the Suns may want to bring him back (especially since he’s a veteran and they’re hoping to make the playoffs this year). The question then becomes, would Orlando really want to bring in Morris given his history? If the front office feels like a new situation around their young core would be a positive change of scenery for him, they might be tempted to make this deal.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is known for making splashy moves. He’s chased past free agents like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh and recently acquired Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets. Most years at the trade deadline, he’s very active. Morey might feel the need to go after Morris from the Suns. Currently, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas are set to see the bulk of the minutes at power forward for Houston.
Jones has been rumored to be on the trading block since the draft and could make for a good replacement in Phoenix. Morris is said to like Houston because of James Harden and would likely not become a distraction if traded there. Teams know the position the Suns are in and may not feel inclined to help them out, so Phoenix may have to part ways with a draft pick to make a trade work.
The Celtics could be a team to watch here. They could be an attractive trade partner for the Suns because they have five power forwards currently on their roster and all of them are on guaranteed deals this season, which means they’ll likely be looking to make some sort of trade sooner than later. They currently have 16 guaranteed contracts on the books for next season and will need to move down to the maximum limit of 15. They also have a ton of picks to facilitate to a trade (if necessary).
The Celtics could look to part ways with Jared Sullinger with David Lee and Amir Johnson ahead of him on the depth chart. Morris would be an upgrade over Sullinger for the Celtics and Sullinger would be a good fit with the Suns. Sullinger is another player set to hit restricted free agency next summer and may not fit into the Celtics’ long-term plans. The Celtics would have Morris for the next four seasons on a very team-friendly contract.
One obvious team could be the Pistons given the chance to pair up the twins again on the same team. The Pistons acquired Marcus from the Suns back in July when Phoenix was said to be trying to clear cap space in order to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. Acquiring the second Morris twin from the Suns could be what it takes to get Markieff back on track.
One question that comes up when thinking about the Pistons is, who would the Suns want in return? The Pistons just acquired Ersan Ilyasova over the summer from the Milwaukee Bucks and likely won’t want to trade him. The Suns could just look to try to dump Morris off to the Pistons for a draft pick or two and a couple of role players if it gets to a point where they feel they can’t trade him anywhere else and he becomes a distraction.
The Suns are in an extremely tough position. They have a player on their team that clearly doesn’t want to be there anymore, but they’re under no obligation to trade him and he has been a key contributor for them in recent years. Morris is a starting-caliber player, so they don’t want to give him up for nothing but teams likely won’t offer up fair value in return for Morris since they know he is unhappy and that Phoenix will likely make a move at some point if the situation doesn’t improve.
Assuming that the Suns eventually decide to trade Morris, at what part of the season do they honor his request? Do they trade Morris prior to the start of the season to avoid any further distractions or do they wait until the trade deadline in February once he’s had a chance to increase his trade value? That question can only be answered by the Suns’ front office and one that will likely continued to be asked until they do make a move.
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