By now, you know the drill. The Phoenix Suns had a very strange season in which a lot of players were unhappy and that torpedoed any chance of exceeding expectations.
In all the turmoil, the parts were most definitely greater than the sum.
One of the primary players in the middle of that turbulence was Markieff Morris. If the Suns don't want an incredibly frustrating repeat of the 2014-15 season, they need to complete the purge* and trade Markieff Morris before the team reports to training camp.
One could argue that his brother Marcus Morris was more of a problem, and that Markieff just followed a half-step behind most of the time. That same person could argue that with Marcus out of the picture, brother Markieff might go back to being his own player and might very well re-commit to his NBA career as an individual rather than pining over lost love. And that if Markieff re-commits, he'd realize Tyson Chandler is the best to every happen to his NBA career.
But the person arguing that point of view is very likely to be wrong.
At what point, any point, in the last 12 months has Markieff Morris shown the ability to give a good hard look at himself, take on at least some of the blame for what happened to him and his brother, and resolve to make a fresh start next season by playing the best basketball of his career?
He blamed everyone, and I mean everyone, but himself for what went wrong for him over the past year.
And where has that complaining left him?
- Playing for a franchise he spent all summer trying to alienate, with zero leverage to force the Suns to do anything they don't want to do
- While knowing he's under guaranteed contract for 4 more years
- Without his beloved brother, who the Suns signed a year ago expressly to make Markieff (the better player by far) happy and content, but who managed to burn even more bridges than Markieff and get dumped for nothing on the first team that would take him
- even worse, facing the prospect of spending years in jail if convicted of the serious felony charges before him
- and knowing that, even if they plea down the charges, be will likely face a long NBA suspension for his role (really, their only "win" option is to get the charges dropped entirely)
Frankly, it doesn't seem like his actions over the past year have left him better off. In fact, it seems like his actions have potentially ruined an otherwise promising career.
Markieff surely sees that right? He sees that he's in a worse position today than he was last year? On both a personal and professional level?
Yet, Markieff decides the best course of action is to demand a trade. But not just demand a trade. He had to vehemently demand a trade. From the organization that drafted him, acquired his brother and signed both of them to long term contracts. He decided the best course of action was to alienate the very organization that helped make him a good NBA player in the first place.
So now the Suns have a big decision to make.
Clearly, if you could trade Markieff Morris for a comparable starting-caliber power forward, you do it in a heart beat. This is not even a question. It's not even worth spending any more time considering. If the Suns could swap Morris for ANY player of his caliber, they would do it.
But what NBA team would do that right now? What NBA team would want to acquire a guy who so quickly can turn on them, ruin their season and willfully destroy all trade value despite being ranked the 64th best player in the NBA (by SI)?
Yet the Suns still have to find a way to trade Markieff Morris.
Sure, they will publicly call his bluff. The front office will say he's under contract and will remain a Phoenix Sun as long as they want him, or until July 1, 2019. Whichever comes first.
They need to rebuild Morris' trade value. You cannot trade Markieff like you traded Marcus (for nothing). You need to find a partner willing to give back assets for a starting caliber power forward. This isn't the NFL, where you can release a high-value player because he's only 1 of 22 starters and 53 overall roster players. You need to get value back for a starting power forward. It won't be easy, but McDonough has to do it.
Meanwhile, Markieff will call the Suns' bluff. He will show up at training camp (by "professional", Markieff means "paycheck") and do the bare minimum of what the Suns require. He will go to practice. He will play in games. He will be Markieff Morris.
But that's not good enough. Really, the Suns have to want him gone.
They have already witnessed how player unrest can ruin a season. Even an otherwise very nice person can ruin a season by complaining about their role and failing to commit 100% to making it work. Imagine what Markieff could do if he put his mind to it.
Markieff Morris will very likely divide the locker room. I'm not saying he will overtly name names of his friends versus his adversaries. But he will have his friends in his corner, and with the #FOE attitude he will encourage them to make a choice between him and the Suns as a franchise. Archie Goodwin is very close with Markieff. So is Eric Bledsoe. And P.J. Tucker. And probably others as well.
The other half the locker room will just go about their business. They will either try to straddle the fence, or will end up in the coaches' corner. Or, they go to the dark side.
Either way, the locker room will be a mess.
The Suns have to trade Markieff Morris. They know it. He knows it. His agent knows it.
Or they might as well forget about a harmonious season.
*Editor's note: this article was about Markieff Morris. The article was NOT about any former Suns player born outside the US, who was originally a second round draft pick and eventually grew to third-team All-NBA. Signed, Capn. Obvious.