Markieff Morris’s summer of discontent has bled into the winter.
Following a rocky offseason in which he saw his brother traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Detroit Pistons, Morris now finds himself more firmly in the rumor mill than the Suns’ rotation. So far in December, he’s registered seven DNP-CDs and a trade seems borderline inevitable.
Despite his troubles (public battles with the coaching staff and front office, and pending legal action regarding assault charges), Morris is still just 26 and a prototypical combo forward. At 6’10”, he has the size to play the 4 and has flashed enough perimeter skill over the last three seasons to warrant some time at the 3.
That should be enough for a few teams to be interested in the potentially mercurial, but talented big man. Let’s examine a few of the possibilities.
Reuniting the Morris twins would essentially mean Phoenix’s front office acquiesced to Morris’s demands, something that may not be likely given the contention between the two sides.
Having said that, there’s a deal between the two teams that makes some sense. Ersan Ilyasova is just two years older than Morris and is on the hook for two fewer years. Plus, he’s been more effective this season:
So why would the Pistons do this? Morris still has some upside and Detroit may think that reuniting the Morrii could unlock some of the magic Markieff showed last season when he averaged 15.3 points.
The Pistons lack a consistent third option after Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, and Morris could fill that need.
This trade takes care of two disgruntled stars, as the Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard has been all over the rumor mill as well.
It may seem like Phoenix isn’t giving up enough for Howard, who was the consensus top center in the NBA just a few years ago, but a number of factors have made him available.
According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, Howard is expected to opt out of the final year of his deal this summer. If Houston doesn’t want to shell out the max to retain Howard (and they shouldn’t, more on that later), they may look to get some value out of him this season rather than allowing him to walk for nothing.
And that takes us to probably the biggest reason Houston may not be intent on keeping Howard. His name is Clint Capela and he’s a 21-year-old per-36-minute machine:
This deal gives Houston a veteran backup to mentor Capela, a cost-controlled Morris (four years, $32M) at the 4 in exchange for Howard, who they may not have kept anyway.
The side that may say no on this is actually the Suns. They’d need to feel pretty confident they could lock up Howard following this season, a confidence that may be hard to come by given their issues with stars in the past few years (Morris, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe, just to name a few).
But the allure of adding a potential superstar to the exciting backcourt of Bledsoe and Brandon Knight may be enough for Phoenix to pull the trigger.
This is completely about cap relief for the Suns. Morris is on an affordable deal, but he’s unhappy and on the books for four seasons. Jeff Green’s deal expires this summer, giving Phoenix the chance to wipe the slate clean.
For the Grizzlies, Morris fits the faster-paced style they’re after this season. They’ve already benched Zach Randolph in favor of Matt Barnes, sliding Green over to the 4. If he regains his form from 2014-15, Morris fills that stretch 4 need better than Green. And his four-year deal will look like pittance under the new salary cap.
Andy Bailey is on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.