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NBA Phoenix Suns Markieff Morris

Should Raptors Trade For Suns Markieff Morris?

It’s been an open secret for a while now, the Suns would like to trade power forward Markieff Morris and since his brother Marcus was shipped off to Detroit, Markieff has done little to hide that the feeling is mutual. In Toronto there has been a certain amount of anxiety in the local fan base since last year’s starting power forward Amir Johnson signed with Boston and the thought of acquiring the Suns starter seems to ease the fear, but should the Raptors make a trade to fill the imagined hole in their starting lineup?

Valley of the Suns Gerald Bourguet confirms the rift between Morris and the Suns, but he also describes just how difficult it would be to trade Morris at this time.

Even with Morris on a steal of a contract, teams won’t be tripping over themselves to add a player who spent the last year building a bad reputation for himself. From calling out the home fans to finishing with the second most technicals in the league to the felony aggravated assault charges.

Those words alone should give any general manager on a good team or a team full of young players pause, however, that “steal of a contract” is real. Morris is signed for the next four years at just $8 million per season.

Morris’ scoring and rebounding has improved in each of his first four seasons and last year he started all 82 games and averaged 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 31.5 minutes. He takes about 2 three-point shots per game and hits on 32 percent of them. He has grabbed about 12 percent of the available boards over his career and his usage rate is high, over 23 percent in each of the past two seasons. Morris is considered a decent defensive player as well. The biggest caveats on his offensive production are the Suns play at the third fastest pace in the Association and he gets a lot of touches on offense.

As the Raptors recent success has been built as much with team chemistry as raw talent, avoiding the addition of a player who appears to be putting self above team should be the obvious move – full stop. However, for those who have forgotten or don’t know what Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson bring to the table, adding a talent like Morris doesn’t look like much of an improvement and his reputation as a locker room problem should sink any remaining thoughts about trading for him.

which makes (Morris) the last remaining locker room problem on a team that needs to find some sort of stability and chemistry after discord became Phoenix’s undoing last year.

One of the Raptors goals this off season was to add rebounding and Scola led the Pacers by grabbing 17.5 percent of the available boards last year. That’s dramatically better than anything Morris or Patterson has ever come close to and one of the big reasons Scola is in Toronto.

The now 35-year-old Scola has always accepted his role. On his National team, he is a big time scorer as that’s what Argentina needs from him. In the NBA his focus has been on defense and rebounding, but don’t think for a minute that Scola can’t put the ball in the bucket. The Raptors can run offense through Scola successfully when needed.

Patterson is set to compete with Scola for the starting power forward role in Toronto, although Scola looks like the better fit and Patterson has excelled coming off the bench. Head-to-head with Morris, Patterson is a true ‘3-and-D’ stretch-four shooting better than 37 percent from deep where Morris is a four who can put up a couple of threes a game but really isn’t a threat.

Last year Patterson’s stats were a victim of the isolation heavy offense ran to take advantage of Lou Williams ability to beat up on second unit guards, but he still averaged 8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 26.6 minutes with a career low utilization rate of just 13.1 percent. Patterson saw the ball about half as often as Morris last year, so the difference in offensive ability isn’t what it seems.

Part of the rationale for any acquisition has to consider a player’s fit on the team. Neither Scola nor Patterson need to see the ball a lot to contribute, but becoming a low utilization guy would represent a big adjustment for Morris. Throw in all that extra baggage Morris is currently dragging around with him and the risks simply don’t justify the potential benefits for Toronto.

Even with his outstanding issues, Morris is still a player that should generate some trade buzz. He is young, talented and that contract really is a bargain. It might take a while to get a deal done, but once things settle down, his highest value may remain right where he is now. As Bourguet says,

With a starting lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Tyson Chandler, the Suns would have a strong starting five with decent depth behind them. Even in the West, that’s a team capable of making the playoffs.

Besides, it will be a lot easier for the Suns to trade Morris if he is helping to put them in or even near the playoff picture and all of that other stuff is fading away.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




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