And here we go.
The Toronto Raptors are showing interest in Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris, according to a report from Marc Stein of ESPN. This comes on the heels of his report that the Raptors are also interested in P.J. Tucker, and Stein calls it a virtual “lock” that the Suns make “at least one deal” by the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
A potential Morris deal is something we’ve talked about around here plenty, and it brings a host of questions with it.
Let’s start here: The framework would almost certainly be Patrick Patterson and a pick for Morris. If you’re not of the mind Morris is a certain upgrade on Patterson, this rumor isn’t for you. The Raptors’ salary structure is such that it’s really difficult to find a workable deal without Patterson, and the Suns likely want more than to just be out of Morris’ contract, given the lip service interim head coach Earl Watson has paid to nurturing Morris and making him the offensive focal point. That’s a good way to re-establish a player’s trade value but it’s also a worthwhile evaluatory endeavor given that the Suns don’t have to give up on the very reasonable three years and $24 million left on his deal. They’re going to want an asset beyond one year of Patterson.
From there, the question falls on Morris’ perceived character issues. Not only has Morris grown irritable and pouty in the desert, but he and brother Marcus have pending assault charges. In terms of the impact on the locker room, my bet would be that Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey believe they’ve created a strong enough organizational culture to be able to bring in a divisive talent without much issue. Casey is a Kentucky guy, like Morris, and Morris is pals with DeMar DeRozan and former perceived malcontent Kyle Lowry. It’s a risk, but the Raptors have put such a high value on employing quality people that they’ve pre-insulated themselves for such a move. That may allow them to get a depreciated asset at a discount relative to talent.
And on talent, Morris would be a big addition. He’s a big, tough power forward who rebounds well and can be an above-average, if foul-prone defender when fully engaged. He doesn’t have the 3-point stroke of Patterson, standing as a 32.4-percent career outside shooter, but he brings far more to the table offensively otherwise. Morris’ numbers are depressed in a bad season and his efficiency and shot-selection have waned, but he has a really nice face-up game and can bully opposing fours on the block. He’s also a smart passer from the elbows, the block, or off the cut, an important consideration that could help keep the Raptors’ offense flowing through a third piece.
On the season, Morris is averaging 10.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while shooting 39.8 percent from the floor. There’s a good argument to be made that as a third option on the Raptors and with a fresh start in a winning situation, Morris could be much better.
I’d imagine the response to this rumor will be polarized. Some won’t want to mess with chemistry, while others will see the talent upgrade as a must-do. I’m leaning more toward the latter side even those I was on the former side earlier in the year. If this were the offseason, I’d be on board with this deal for sure, with little worry about the locker room with so much time for everyone to build a chemistry. That’s riskier mid-season, but there are basketball and economic reasons behind Ujiri building such a strong culture, and this is exactly the kind of situation where he can leverage that intangible advantage.
The Raptors could have chance to get a talented player on a good contract with lots of control for a solid player and a surplus asset they probably won’t have much use for come draft time, anyway. I’d understand either side of the argument, but leaving talent on the table is tough.
Follow @raptorsrepublicFollow @BlakeMurphyODCReport: Raptors showing interest in Markieff Morris originated on Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog.
And here we go.