At the zero hour of the 2016 trade deadline, the Phoenix Suns made a decision that has seemed inevitable for the better part of a year: they parted ways with forward Markieff Morris in a trade with the Washington Wizards, receiving a protected first-round draft pick in addition to salary filler (Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair).
Morris's tenure as a Sun, lasting nearly five years, began innocuously as he quietly struggled to carve out a career in the NBA. Quickly after his breakout season in 2013/14, he became notable more for his unpredictable behavior than for his play on the court as he created a whirlwind of negative headlines by getting charged with felony assault, amassing an obscene amount of technical fouls, publicly demanding a trade, lashing out at the media and the fans, tossing a towel at his head coach, and physically accosting a teammate on the sidelines.
Now that everyone got their deadline wish, the healing can begin. We turn to the staff at Bright Side of the Sun to commemorate the occasion.
Now that the Suns have finally purged Markieff Morris from the roster, talk a bit about your thoughts on his career as a Sun: the highs, the lows, and of course, the drama.
Rollin J. Mason: I'll start on a positive note: Kieff was a man in 2013/14. Playing next to either Channing Frye at PF or next to his bro at C, he had a ton of real estate inside to work with and watching him operate on the low-block was exhilarating -- maybe because such things have always been a luxury in Phoenix.
It's a shame that they couldn't maintain that dynamic for him. Once Frye bolted to Disneyworld, the space inside evaporated. It's been discussed plenty how much Frye's absence affected the guard penetration, but Kieff went from 5.5 FTA per 36 to 3.2 in 2014/15. Suddenly he wasn't much fun to watch anymore, unless you're profoundly fond of 18-footers.
By the time his behavior went sour, the whole thing stank. What I'll probably remember most about Markieff was his career-high 35 points against LeBron James and the Cavs, and then hearing that he stiffed the media after the game. I mean, here's a guy that can't even be gracious at the moment of his own triumph.
That was Kieff in a nutshell: a talented player that couldn't get out of the way of his own personality.
Upon hearing that he was finally headed out of Phoenix, the closest feeling I can liken it too is when you spend a few days camping and get all funky from campfire smoke and spilled beer and your hair gets all matted to your head, then you finally make it home and take a 30-minute shower. It's unfortunate for everyone involved that the face of the Ryan McDonough era in Phoenix has been the scowling countenance of Markieff Morris -- and yes, that's as much McDonough's fault as anyone else's.
Maybe it's a little disappointing that they could only snag a first-rounder for him when he was seen as a formidable newcomer just a season and a half ago, and I'm positive he'll play well for Washington because that would be so Markieff, but the Suns could use that pick on half a jar of French's mustard and I'd still be fine with it.
Ray Hrovat: Maybe it's the fatigue of his behavior over the last year clouding my longer term memory, but I was never a huge Keef fan even in the "good times." I always saw a PF who didn't possess any of the key big man traits: Not a plus rebounder, or shot-blocker, or true stretch player. He was sort of a jack of all trades, master of none, and his offensive game was centered around basketball's least efficient shot, the mid-range jumper.
Probably the most optimistic I ever was about Keef's future was when he started strongly as a rookie. I attended his first game as a Suns in late 2011 after the lockout ended. The Suns lost to New Orleans, and Keef threw an errant pass with the game on the line, but the story was that he had been such an effective passer that it made sense he'd have the ball in his hands at the end. So much promise for a kid playing his first game in the pros.
Then he went to the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend as a rookie in 2012, but collapsed in the second half of the season. The hot and cold inconsistency would continue throughout the rest of his Suns career. I never saw him as a dependable player, no matter the legend of his "clutch-ness."
Keef's behavior problems have been well documented here, so I won't repeat the laundry list. Each incident, when taken individually, wasn't such a huge deal (though felony assault is, should he be convicted there), but the cumulative effect of it being always something with him put me squarely in the camp of just wanting him gone long ago, whatever the return.
All of the misbehavior might have been tolerable if he were a better player, but he's just thoroughly average. He had one great season as a sixth man in 2013-14, then was OK as a starter last season, and a disaster this season. That the Suns were able to get a return draft pick which figures to be in almost the exact same #13 where he was chosen seems appropriate. As a player, he was meh, but he'll be remembered by fans more for being a miscreant. And that's all on him. Good riddance, Markieff.
Deadpoolio: Let's get this out of the way: This trade needed to happen. The environment had become far too toxic for the relationship between Markieff Morris and the Phoenix Suns to be salvaged. With that said, I have to admit some melancholy over what could have been.
I think back to Morris' rookie season in 2011-12 and remember him looking like a terrific stretch four. He shot 41.3 percent from 3 over the first 33 games of his NBA career and never shot better from 3 in his career than his first season in Phoenix. In retrospect, that may have had something to do with Steve Nash making some amazing passes as our good friend Earl Barron would say, but I still thought the Suns had found themselves a player in Morris. He seemed to be quiet and a hard worker; Jermaine O'Neal even said so when he first joined Phoenix the following season. The personality issues that came to define his time in the desert were nonexistent.
But that Markieff is not today's Markieff for a number of reasons too long to delve into here, and a change was beyond necessary. Nothing was breaking Morris' way anymore. Even when he responded and started playing better under Earl Watson — which is basically the epicenter of my ire with Morris this season — his efforts were overshadowed by the scuffle with Archie Goodwin on the bench. Rectifying the situation with Morris was like trying to extinguish the Great Fire of London with buckets of water. Things just weren't getting better. They had to change.
Now the Suns have another draft pick to work with, added cap space, and one of Kim Kardashian's early playthings. Most important of all, the franchise can breathe again. As for Morris, maybe he turns into another Zach Randolph and blossoms in a new environment. For the sake of the player and person I cheered for as a rookie, I hope so.
Mike Lisboa: I'm glad Markieff Morris is gone. His best work in Phoenix, which lasted for about a season, was average. It's been mentioned on this site that Eric Bledsoe isn't good enough to be the best player on a championship squad. Let me ask you this: do you see Markieff Morris even starting for a championship team? I can't think of a recent Larry O'Brien winning team where he would have made the top 5.
The prize of Markieff Morris' production stopped being worth the price of his presence long ago. If anything, it speaks to how damaging the Lance Blanks era was to the Suns that Markieff Morris was seen as anything more than expendable even before he started grinding his feet on Robert Sarver's couch. He's a soft-touch short to mid-range jump shooter at power forward. He's Dirk Nowitzki without the range or the rebounding. Markieff Morris was hardly a cornerstone guy and parting with him was only painful because he torpedoed his own value with both off and on-court shenanigans.
Thank God it's over. This was such a frustrating story that never seemed like it would end. There was no other possible resolution, and my only criticism is how long it took to come to fruition.
Markieff had a very good start to his career here in Phoenix, proving to be one of the better all-around power forwards in the game. There was nothing he was great at, besides hitting contested jumpers, but he did most things relatively well...and there is certainly room on an NBA roster for a big with that skill set.
When Marcus arrived, things got even better...initially. But then, everything suddenly unraveled. For whatever reason, they couldn't co-exist on the same roster without becoming insufferable. This made one great contract and one pretty good one, both look bad.
The Suns did the right thing in trading away Marcus this Summer. When it happened, I would have bet my bottom dollar that a Keef trade was soon to follow. After all, everyone knew how close they were, and what a disaster it would be trying to keep one after unceremoniously trading away the other. But as days turned to weeks, I heard the ridiculous position of Suns management that they wanted to keep Markieff. Here's what I think...they got greedy. Instead of immediately finding a deal for Keef and taking what the market offered, they gambled they could increase his trade value. It never worked.
In the end, the Suns did pretty well in trading Keef for a first round pick with only a top-9 protection...but I think they could have done at least equally as well this past summer, and saved the franchise and the fans a huge headache, as well as lessen the damage to the team's reputation. All's well that ends well though, and now the Suns can turn a malcontent player into, potentially, another young cornerstone of their future.