Trading a high quality player with attitude and/or legal issues is a very difficult proposition. Just ask any general manager in any sport. The same will be true of the Phoenix Suns trying to accommodate Markieff Morris by winning or just simply breaking even in any trade.
In retrospect, the Suns did well to get two first round picks - far in the future but only lightly protected - for Goran Dragic with the entire basketball world knowing he was leaving the Suns for nothing in two months.
Now Markieff Morris is demanding a trade. Like Dragic, he is making his displeasure with the Suns very public and the Suns have little choice but to move on from him. Unlike Dragic, Morris under a long-term, low-cost contract so the trade offers might actually return immediate value because the receiving team will have Morris for years.
But still, the rest of the NBA knows the Suns need to make a trade, so will likely try to get him at a low cost.
How good is Markieff Morris anyway? He played 30 minutes per game for the Suns last year, and had a lot of good performances. In fact, he was often the best player on the floor for a winning team in the first half of last season.
- Has rare ability to create and make a lot of clutch shots in close games
- His mid-range game is very smooth, allowing him the ability to get a shot off against almost any defender in a one-on-one situation.
- He had the best plus/minus on the Suns last year (+7.3 points per 100 possessions). The Suns fell apart when he was off the court.
- He is always healthy, missing only a handful of games in his career.
- He's only being paid $8 million per year for the next 4 years, making it much easier to build a team around him as the cap rises, or to justify him as a high-value bench option even if he's not a starter
- He is one of the Suns best four players (Knight, Bledsoe, Chandler the others) at the moment, and was truly one of the two best remaining Suns from prior to the February trade deadline, once Dragic and Thomas were traded
But he also has his limitations when compared to other forwards in the NBA. Among all forwards who played 20+ minutes per game last year (courtesy of basketball-reference.com, using players who classified as C, F/C or C/F), Markieff did not rank highly in many categories.
- Markieff Morris ranked 44th in win shares among forwards who played 20+ minutes per game last year
- He was 25th in minutes played per game
- He ranked 53rd in rebounds per 36 minutes
- He ranked 28th in points per 36 minutes
- He ranked 46th in FTs per 36 minutes
- He ranked 60th in blocks per 36 minutes
- He ranked 25th in assists per 36 minutes
- He ranked 23rd in steals per 36 minutes
- He ranked 12th in turnovers per 36 minutes (don't get excited by the high ranking - this one should be lower)
So while he is a good player on the court and has proven himself to be starter-quality in this league, Morris is not exactly All-Star caliber. Could he get there? Maybe. But I just don't see it happening.
Still, he's an asset if he can get past his behavioral problems.
Of course, any self-respecting team would try to trade Markieff Morris if they could get better in the process. And judging by his rankings, there are more than a few guys out there who could replace his production.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Ryan McDonough has talked to at least 20 teams about this possibility. But rest assured he's trying to get better, not worse. The Suns want a playoff run this year, so they won't want to dump Markieff for a bag of beans and a sexy smile. Why else would you sign Tyson Chandler if you're not pushing for the playoffs?
But finding that deal that will, at worst, keep the Suns in contention for a playoff spot, is not easy to find. Not at all.
Let's try to put together some trade packages. The BSotS staff was challenged with finding a good REALISTIC deal, in which the Suns don't incredibly win the trade and they don't give away the farm either.
All scenarios must include reasons why each team would want the trade, and what mitigating factors were considered.
Dave King's deal
What/Who involved: Keef to Boston for Jared Sullinger and a future protected pick
Why the Suns would do it: Need to move on. Sullinger is quite average, at best, but Suns just need to move on. And, he's a starting caliber guy who would soak up a few minutes a game, and rebound pretty well.
Why the other team(s) would do it: Boston trying to make playoffs. Keef a definite upgrade. He is healthier, under a great contract, and Ainge gets along famously with McDonough.
Other mitigating factors: Suns need, need, need to move on. Sullinger isn't the worst return. He ranks higher on the list of forwards than Markieff in most categories (see link above), but his problem is that he's even more earth-bound than Markieff and has been highly injury-prone. There's no guarantee that Sullinger would play even most of the season.
Kellan Olson's deal
What/Who involved: Washington Wizards receive Markieff Morris, Houston Rockets receive Kelly Oubre Jr., Archie Goodwin, and the Suns lottery protected 2016 first-round pick, Phoenix Suns receive Terrence Jones and Kris Humphries
Why the Suns would do it: The Suns should be desperate for a deal that keeps them from going under this season after trading Keef. Jones is only 23, but already has three seasons in the NBA. He can handle the ball for his size, rebounds well, and blocks shots. He still needs to keep working to improve as a defender and has to get his three-point shot to league average, but remember who he is replacing. He’s a good NBA player who should keep improving and fits pretty well. That’s a good return given the situation the Suns got put in.
Why the other team(s) would do it: Houston has both Jones and Donatas Motiejunas going to restricted free agency in 2016. D-Mo is the best post player in the NBA besides LeBron and hits threes right around league average, so I’d like to think they would prioritize him over Jones. That makes him expendable and Houston has never shied away from assets. They could use the assets provided in this deal to go get another power forward if they so choose, although I understand why they would be skeptical to any deal that makes them worse. Washington is ready to push for the Finals around John Wall and Bradley Beal. Keef gives them a very good starting power forward that is a bargain for the next four seasons. With Beal’s extension coming up in 2016 along with Nene’s expiring, they can fill their power forward spot for the next four years and still be aggressive with Kevin Durant. As for the other pieces, the Rockets need value coming back and that’s Oubre and Goodwin. Oubre is expendable with Otto Porter.
Other mitigating factors: Kris Humphries is a deal that’s needed to make this work. The Suns don’t need him, but a team that needs an extra big could use him and even if they can’t deal him it’s a very small contract for next year’s cap explosion and worth the price of Jones. The Suns are young enough and do not need that first-round pick. They have the Cleveland pick anyway if they still want a first rounder in a very poor draft. Goodwin is expendable with where he is at right now as a player and having Devin Booker and Sonny Weems now on the roster.
Mike Lisboa's deal
What/Who Involved: Markieff Morris to Detroit Pistons for Ersan Ilyasova and a future first round pick
Why the Suns would do it: Because Markieff Morris is a cancer to the Phoenix Suns that needs to be excised post-haste if reports are to be believed. And Ersan Ilyasova is not completely imcompetent and playing the the power forward position. And with 2 years left on Ilyasova's contract, he is both movable and expiring after this season. It's a small step back in terms of on-court talent for Phoenix, but a giant leap forward in terms of professionalism and team chemistry.
Why Detroit would do it: Twin magic! Bad Boys 2! And because despite his attitude issues, Markieff Morris is a tremendous value at his current salary. The Pistons get a starting power forward and hopefully build on the same synergy the Suns expected when they signed both twins to their deal. And Markieff is better at basketball than Ilyasova.
Other mitigating factors: Stan Van Gundy probably doesn't huff paint prior to making NBA trades. But maybe he decides to start? Or at least decides the reward is worth the risk in this deal. And Ryan McDonough and company can stomach giving Markieff what he (likely) wants in order to acquire a passable substitute until their next big move.
Geoff Allen's deal
What/Who Involved: Markieff Morris and the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic for Joel Embiid and Richaun Holmes.
Why the Suns would do it: Its a total swing for the fences move. Kieff wants out, and there really aren't a ton of options at the moment. Embiid has the most upside of any player you are likely to get for Kieff. And Richaun Holmes is an interesting guy with a rather unique skillset as a shot blocking stretch 4. Losing Bogdan hurts less with Booker in the fold.
Why the 76ers would do it: Embiid could be Hinkie's folly. The fan base in Philly has been remarkably patient with Hinkie's chop job, but if Embiid busts, he could be in trouble. This trade allows him to get decent value for Embiid after really, really bad injury news. Kieff is a hometown boy, and it could help him out with the fan base. Plus, SG is one of the missing pieces for Hinkie's build, and Bogdan represents a better prospect than Hollis Thompson.
Other mitigating factors: I mean, the most likely thing to happen is that Suns doctors investigate Embiid's injuries and find them unredeemable. That actually seems fairly likely. Also, Hinkie is the consummate commodities trader, and he may feel this is too bearish a take on Embiid's NBA potential. Finally, this would have to happen in December to get Holmes. Otherwise we could ask for Arsalan Kazemi, a different but still intriguing player.
Sean Sullivan's deal
What/Who Involved: Markieff Morris for Marcus Morris
Why the Suns would do it: Because it would be hilarious!
Why the Pistons would do it: Because it would be hilarious! And...Keef is better.
Other mitigating factors: Well, besides the fact that Marcus literally cannot be traded again yet...obviously this trade won't happen. But, instead of wracking my brain (what's left of it) to come up with something inferior to what the other great writers on this site have spent hours on the ESPN Trade Machine in order to produce, I decided to go with a little comic relief instead.
However, rather than completely wasting your time, I will say that I strongly believe that when Markieff is traded, that Archie Goodwin will be a part of the deal. Now before the pro-Archie crowd jumps down my throat and calls for pitchforks and torches...Let me tell you why. First, Archie was originally drafted to be a point guard...that obviously wasn't going to work, so they decided to try him at shooting guard. But Archie has yet to find his way into the rotation over the last two seasons, and he has expressed his frustrations on two separate occasions to the media. The Suns have no doubt been disappointed as well, as I distinctly recall coach Hornacek saying that he expected Archie to be a big part of the rotation prior to the start of last season...that obviously didn't happen. But maybe there's this year, right? Nope. Now, the Suns have drafted Devin Booker. Yet another guard to help fill the role vacated by Gerald Green, just when it looked like Archie's chance may have finally come. The reason? He can shoot three's, and Archie can't. Adding to that, during Keef's reported "radio silence" to the media and the rest of the team since Marcus was traded, Archie was the one player that took up for him in the media, and communicated regularly with Keef on Twitter. Is Archie a problem? No. But could the organization see him as the one lingering Morrii influence when trying to wash their hands of them completely? Perhaps. At best, it doesn't help him, and when you combine that with all of the other factors, I think that Archie will be included in whatever deal the Suns find for Markieff.
Jacob Padilla's deal
What/Who involved: Markieff Morris and a pick for Patrick Patterson and Lucas Nogueira.
Why the Suns would do it: Patterson is not as good as Morris, but he's a good enough place-holder and should fit in well as a stretch four. He doesn't have Morris' iso scoring abilities, but he compares well enough in other areas and shot 37.1 percent from deep last year. The idea is that having a stretch four on the floor at all times would give Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight the best possible chance of maximizing their abilities, mitigating the loss of Morris' scoring. Nogueira only scored six points last year, but he's a young big man with some potential.
Why the Raptors would to it: Power forward is probably Toronto's weakest position with the departure of Amir Johnson, and Markieff Morris is a clear upgrade. I don't know which pick would get the job done, but the Suns have several of varying value.
Other mitigating factors: This is a fairly optimistic deal, I'd think. It doesn't have to involve Nogueira, but I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up another big body knowing both Tyson Chandler and Alex Len making it through the season with full health is very unlikely. The 2016 Cleveland first rounder or the better of Detroit's or Phoenix's 2020 second rounder were the ones I had in mind. Morris for Patterson straight up wouldn't be terrible either, as it could be an addition-by-subtraction type of move as I described above, and Patterson only has two years left at less than $7 million per, making him pretty movable.
Jim Coughenour's roster cleansing:
What/Who Involved: Markieff Morris for Cody Zeller and Brian Roberts.
Why the Suns would do it: Damage control. Zeller isn't a perfect fit for the Suns spacing needs, but might be a good complement to Mirza Teletovic and give the Suns matchup options. While Markieff's midrange game is superior to Zeller, Cody did hit .373 of his shots from 16' to the three point line (Markieff was .397). Zeller does some things better than Markieff, like rebounding (8.8 to 7.1 per 36) and committing less turnovers (1.5 to 2.4 per 36). Zeller is still only 22, three years younger than Markieff. Morris didn't make his leap until his third season at age 24. Zeller will be entering his third season at 23 this year. Roberts gives the Suns another option at backup point guard to make it a competition with Ronnie Price for minutes... plus matching salaries.
Why Charlotte would do it: In the crappy Eastern Conference Charlotte might think this tips the scales and solidifies their chances to make the playoffs. Markieff is a much better scoring option than Zeller and the Hornets won't get a ton of offensive production out of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum. Morris is on a good long term contract. If they think that Markieff is just a misunderstood and troubled young man that can be rehabilitated there is still plenty of potential there.
Other mitigating factors: Markieff is a real piece of... work, but we all should have (or did) seen this was coming, especially after Marcus's little puppet show on twitter. Markieff has put the Suns in a terrible position. I just really don't see any option of bringing him back... try to sell that to the fans. At least Zeller has some upside and might take the next step towards being a very good player. I don't think there is a realistic chance the Suns obviously improve right away by trading Markieff. It will have to be a sneaky addition by subtraction/player has breakout season type of deal. If McDonough doesn't lose his ass it will be a win.
Bonus Option: The Toronto Raptors need a power forward and have an attractive first round pick coming in 2016 (the least favorable of the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets) that might even be top 5. A deal centered around that might be nice.