Yesterday news hit that the New Orleans Pelicans were interested in acquiring Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris. Morris, complete with a lengthy contract and pending felony aggravated assault charges, could come at the cost of Ryan Anderson. Naturally we decided to get together to discuss the merits of this specific trade rumor.
Do you like Dell Demps trading Ryan Anderson for Markieff Morris? Should anything else be involved to sway your opinion on a potential trade?
Kevin Barrios: I'm certainly not opposed to this trade — especially if it leads to some other roster tuning. I've never been 100% in love with Anderson as he's pretty one-dimensional and can be prone to chucking up difficult shots when his shot isn't falling and often lacks court awareness. However, when he gets hot he is unguardable. He also has developed a decent post game and is getting better at rebounding. Markieff Morris isn't as natural of a shooter as Anderson and likely won't have many 8/10 from deep nights, but he's more consistent. You can rely on his contribution. His highs and lows won't be like the economic disparity of a third world nation. Also, he's a whole lot nastier and tougher than Ryan. However, he also comes with some well documented character flaws. Gentry was his first coach and should know if there are any real issues there so I trust his judgement. That being said, everyone thought Junior Galette was a decent teammate until he got paid. Maybe Markieff was also changed by money — if this goes down, let's hope not.
I spoke to someone with a non-LA NBA franchise who said he expects Ryan Anderson to be a max player this summer, just based on market— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) December 8, 2015
The rumor is that Anderson could fetch a max offer this summer, which is way too much for him and any player that plays the same position as Anthony Davis. If he is going to walk at the end of the year, we may as well move him now while we are in a down year. The Suns have obviously soured on Morris and if no other suitor has a better offer we can probably get some value in return. Morris' contract will be very palatable after the cap increase this coming offseason, we could possibly pry another player like Archie Goodwin (I'd love to get TJ Warren, but I'm sure that's out of the question) and maybe even a 2nd or the right to swap 1st round picks in the deal. If that's the case I'm all for it. Goodwin is a decent looking prospect that should fit this system well. Morris is versatile on defense, has a good post game, is a decent jump shooter, rebounds and plays D.
Chris Cucchiara: This would not be a popular trade among fans, especially the casual Pelicans fan and those feelings would not be unwarranted. Ryan Anderson is one of the most likeable players on the roster and is a fan favorite. He has grown in his time here and has been through some pretty tough lows and we have seen him battle back from injury to regain his form. Couple that with what we know about him off the court and replacing him with a player such as Markieff Morris with his off the court troubles, will be a tough sell by a franchise that is starting to lose the trust of their local fan base.
I would say that Demps approval rating and trust factor are at an all-time low right now and I would hope that Mickey Loomis and Tom Benson would not allow him to sacrifice future cap space and draft picks to try and save his own job.
Morris is the exact type of player the Pelicans have gone out of their way to avoid in order to create good chemistry on and off the court. It is pretty clear that the trade, off the court, would result in a big negative for a Pelicans team that is quickly seeing their season disappear.
What about on the court? How do the two players compare? This year, offensively, there has been no comparison. Ryan Anderson has been far superior in every aspect and trading him away would result in a big scoring hole off the bench. Anderson is leading all reserves in scoring. Morris has been dreadful and that may be attributable to not being happy in his situation, but again that brings up his character issues. You are getting paid $8 million per year to play basketball, smile a little. Defensively is where the Pelicans will be betting that the improvement from Anderson to Morris will be bigger than the drop off from Anderson to Morris on offense. Playing AD and Morris next to each other is appealing and Morris' contract is a steal at $8 million per.
Which brings me to the last point. We all would love to keep Ryno, but what if he does not want to keep New Orleans? What if Anderson is not warm to the idea of re-signing with the Pels? The smart move would be to trade him. Sell high and get something for him. You could do worse than a starting PF on a small contract.
Without knowing how Ryno feels about re-signing, I would not do the deal unless a pick was thrown in. That may make the deal to tempting to resist. I like Morris on his contract and a first round pick better than Ryno on a $12-15 million dollar a year deal and no pick. There are rumors Houston may be interested in Morris, so maybe there is an opportunity for a 3-way deal with Houston. Again, my main concern is letting Dell deal assets and or picks to save his job which I hope he does not have the ability to do.
Jay Dunn: On the surface it's not a terrible move if you think about a team as group of different skill sets. Morris, like Anderson, is a stretch four with the ability to run the floor and score from multiple spots. Morris is a bit of an upgrade defensively, but his career 32% three point shooting would be a downgrade from Anderson's career 37% three point percentage. In addition, Morris has been a malcontent off the floor, especially since the Suns traded his brother Marcus to the Pistons. If that isn't enough he and his aforementioned brother have a pending aggravated assault case. It feels like Morris (age 26) is the younger player, maybe because of his immaturity, but not really as the two players are only about 15 months apart.
That leaves the contract, of which Morris has 3yrs remaining at 7.4, 8.0, and 8.6 million dollars. That's a reasonable contract for a player of his talent level. Ryno will almost certainly cost twice that amount annually once he becomes a free agent. All that said, if you believe championships or winning in general are about more than just talent, then you might want to steer clear of a player who has already demanded a trade once already in his career and could bring a host of off the court headaches.
The truth is we don't know if the Pels are seriously considering Markieff Morris or if he is possibly a part of a larger deal to which we are not yet privy. In a vacuum though I don't hate the trade from a talent perspective but I can't say I’m excited from a personality perspective. If Morris grows up his contract would be a steal given his versatile skill set. If he continues to be a headache the Pelicans would be better off making another deal or simply allowing Ryan Anderson's contract to expire.
David Fisher: I can see the merits of this trade. Hypothetically the Pelicans are selling high on Anderson while buying low on Markieff Morris. It is no wonder that Daryl Morey has already been attached to trade rumors. If opportunity cost wasn't a thing that exists turning Anderson into Morris and a pick is a no-brainer. Morris has a higher upside simply because he can stay on the floor defensively in the playoffs, we've all been witness to teams attacking Ryno relentlessly in the pick and roll during crunch time.
Opportunity cost is a thing though, and the Pelicans do not save money by adding $8 million in payroll from the 2016-17 season. New Orleans is not required to re-sign Ryan Anderson and those potential cap dollars can be spent elsewhere. Allowing the contracts of Eric Gordon and Anderson to expire creates greater flexibility. Before trading away any guaranteed contracts the Pelicans have nearly $17 million in potential cap space this summer. Adding Morris eats up nearly half that amount.
Flexibility has risks too. Everyone is going to have oodles of cap space this summer. Players are going to be wildly overpaid. Free agents might not be drawn to pairing up with Anthony Davis if the first 21 games are any indication of the quality of this roster. Ultimately it feels like Dell Demps is trying to save his job, and that's not what I want the GM of the New Orleans Pelicans concerned with at any moment. Every move should be about opening a realistic window to championship contention when Anthony Davis is in his prime.
I don't see how adding Markieff Morris is more beneficial to that end goal than being patient and allowing contracts to expire.
Quentin Haynes: I think the Pelicans should try to get the 2016 Cleveland first round pick out of this deal. The Pelicans will have the lower of their own and Sacramento's second round pick. The Cavaliers are probably going to end up as one of the four best teams in the league in terms of record, but those late first rounders, if you hit on them, are so valuable. Jimmy Butler probably being the best example. His production was good, his low cap number allowed the Bulls to build as he was ascending and his low cap hold when he hit FA didn’t affect the free agency push. Assume the Pelicans do this trade and remain as one of the 10 worst teams in the league, getting the 8th and 28th pick isn’t bad to build with as the cap jumps.
As for the trades, I like it, but I also wonder what it means long term. For now, I think it works. The Pelicans can run something like Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter (when he returns), Markieff Morris, and Anthony Davis as their five. Evans and Holiday can operate offense, Davis, Pondexter and Holiday can space the floor for Tyreke, and Morris and Evans can run some pick and rolls (Morris has a 1.01 PPP and 51% shooting as a roll man this year, per NBA Stats). Eric Gordon can play two guard when Evans moves to the point, Alexis Ajinca for moving Davis to the four, there’s some things to like there.
Long term, I’m curious for what it means for New Orleans and roster building. I’m pretty much for tanking trying to acquire the highest draft pick and this move might hurt that. I also have mild concerns that Morris can’t shoot the three ball as well as Anderson can. Of course, there’s the problem that Morris has been a malcontent in Phoenix with his brother Marcus there and even more so after they traded him. Still, if the Pelicans can acquire him for just Ryan Anderson, maybe Ryan Anderson and some flotsam and get a draft pick out of it, that’s a coup. Especially with Morris locked in for three more years for just $21 million.
Going into the offseason with Holiday, Evans, Pondexter, Morris, Davis, Ajinca, Asik, Cunningham in place as they try to remodel the team is not a bad group to work with.