The New Orleans Pelicans are interested in acquiring Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris. Yahoo Sports is reporting that preliminary discussions on a trade have begun between New Orleans and Phoenix.
Morris was charged with two counts of felony aggravated assault this past spring along with his twin brother Marcus Morris. After his brother was traded to the Detroit Pistons thing truly began to unravel in Phoenix, culminating in a trade demand in August and a $10,000 fine in September for making that demand public. Make no mistake, Morris is available because of the accumulated off-court baggage.
On the floor Markieff's play has also turned sour. This season Morris is shooting a putrid 38.6% from the floor and 27.9% from three, both career worst marks. His PER languishes at 9.5, while ESPN's Real Plus-Minus ranks him 86th among 94 total power forwards at -2.24. No Sun comes close to his -6.0 On/Off rating this season. Both the offense and defense suffer when Morris takes the court.
The biggest piece of news reported by Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania is the availability of reserve power forward Ryan Anderson.
The Pelicans’ willingness to part with forward Ryan Anderson could make conversations worth exploring between the two teams, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The Pelicans are willing to consider moving Anderson as a part of a potential deal for Morris, especially if Anderson doesn’t show an interest in signing a new contract with New Orleans, sources said.
The dollars and cents of this deal are a big factor on the Pelicans side. Morris in under contract through 2019 and will cost just $7.4 Million next season against the salary cap. Anderson's cap hold on July 1st is $12.75 Million and his actual cost is expected to exceed that amount, especially if his play continues at the current pace.
Dell Demps, or whomever is the GM by July, could elect to let Anderson walk this summer. Anderson will be an unrestricted free agent and can select any team he would like without New Orleans seeing a return whatsoever. Trading away Anderson does not save future money, it reallocates possible flexibility to Markieff Morris's contract. Morris will be cheaper than Anderson this summer. The Pelicans do not have to pay Anderson at all. Trading for Morris sacrifices potential cap space, it does not create additional cap space.
If Morris can get back to his old ways the Pelicans could get an absolute steal. His best personal season was 2014 but last year, despite a dip in counting stats, his impact on the court for the Suns was enormous. At +3.43 he placed 10th among power forwards in total RPM and 8th defensively.
|PER||RPM||RPM - O||RPM - D||On - Off Net|
|Markieff Morris 2014||18.4||-0.02||0.53||-0.55||2.1|
|Ryan Anderson 2014||18.8||1.17||3.04||-1.87||5.4|
|Markieff Morris 2015||15.8||3.43||0.40||3.03||7.6|
|Ryan Anderson 2015||15.6||-1.70||2.05||-3.75||-4.5|
|Markieff Morris 2016||9.5||-2.24||-2.91||0.67||-6.0|
|Ryan Anderson 2016||18.2||-1.61||1.55||-3.16||0.4|
This trade won't work unless Morris turns things around both in and out of the gym, period. The other half is who the Pelicans would lose, Ryan Anderson. Anderson is not without faults on the court. Slow feet and defensive lapses (despite effort) are constantly criticized. Off the floor Anderson is a team leader in the locker room. Morris has tallied 30 technical fouls and three ejections in the last three seasons. Anderson has been called for just four technical fouls and has yet to be ejected in his career. This is before even weighing the legal issues hanging over Markieff's head.
If this trade does occur I hope Dell Demps is trying to pry a first round pick out of Phoenix. Suns GM Ryan McDonough owns the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 First Round pick and both the 2018 and 2021 First Round picks of the Miami Heat thanks to a whirlwind of trades at the deadline in February. Additionally the Suns do not owe any of their future picks, but I doubt they are included. The Cavs pick might be negotiable, especially as the league begins to devalue late first round picks (and the four year schedule) for more flexible picks early in the second round.
I'm concerned. Worried that Demps is going to sacrifice even more future flexibility to see a tangible return on a player. This reeks of panic and poor management, issues that have been a serious issue at Airline Drive recently. If the GM is making moves to save his job maybe the franchise should save itself from the GM first.