The Washington Wizards took their time, before striking a deal near the close of business of today’s NBA Trade Deadline. The Wizards traded forwards Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair to the Phoenix Suns for forward Markieff Morris. A huge part of the transaction was the pick that was included in the deal, Washington sent their 2016 first round pick to the Suns. While the pick is top nine protected per multiple reports, the deal is done pending league approval.
To this point in the season, it’s become quite obvious that Washington didn’t have the type of bigs that are needed in today’s NBA. Especially at power forward, they were definitely in need of a true “stretch-four” and the experiment with Humphries at the start of the season didn’t last long. While Kris worked hard to extend his range out beyond the the three point line, when presented with a hard close-out by a defender, he didn’t have a counter since he can’t put the ball on the floor. Marcin Gortat can anchor lineups at center, but don’t really give Washington what they need from a spacing stand point.
Nene has worked well at times in Washington’s small lineup with him at center, but still there was a flexibility that the Wizards were lacking up front. Speaking to the on court part of today’s deal, Morris is the type of player that fits the bill for Washington. At 6’10 he has the size to play both the four and five (power forward and center) in certain lineups. Additionally, he is also fleet footed enough to play small forward in short stretches if needed. As soon as his first game with Washington, he should instantly help space the floor and allow the Wizards to match up even better with teams that are known for going small and exposing teams with the more traditional bigs.
Much has been made of Markieff’s off the court issues, the latest issue being on court, well on the sideline as he got into a physical altercation with a teammate in the huddle. Still, Washington did it’s due diligence in regards to checking into his background to ensure that he wouldn’t take a team that is trying to get back into the playoff race down even further.
Wizards did their research before trading for Morris.They called former coaches, teammates. Believe he’ll fit in and have something to prove
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) February 18, 2016
The 26-year old forward is averaging 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds on the year, that’s not extremely impressive at first glance. He has recently started playing like last year’s version to start the month of February. In his last five games, Morris is averaging 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, one steal, and 1.4 blocks a contest. This is not to say that the last five games is what Wizards fans should expect, but simply that one can’t simply take his yearly average and get the full picture. Secondly, while not aiming to disrespect the level of point guard play in Phoenix, he’s now on a team with one of the best playmakers in the league with John Wall and those numbers should improve. Below is a chart (courtesy of vorped.com) of where Morris gets his shots and how well he does in those areas prior to the trade. While looking at the chart, think about the difference in the quality of those attempts while playing with Wall.
This is not a short term rental for Washington as Morris will be paid $8 million a season over the next three years. The mercurial Morris is certainly talented and his talents fit a need here in Washington. At 26, he’s in that window to be a part of Wall’s prime and that can’t be discounted. We should have an idea by the end of this season of just how well of a fit Morris is for Washington, but Wall’s done a lot with bigs that don’t bring his skill set to the table.
This isn’t one of those trades that can be instantly marked a win or loss, it was a need and Washington filled it. What will be in question is the price that was paid, specifically that draft pick. It’s been well known for a few months that Morris and his former employers weren’t fans of each other and he very well may have been acquired for less. With the Morris deal, Washington will still have enough cap room to sign a max player. So this trade didn’t end the hopes of the Wizards jumping in the sweepstakes for one of the class of 2016’s free agents. Still, what’s done is done and Washington now has to nail this offseason without the use of the first round of the draft.
Morris obviously won’t be available tonight, but he could be Friday when Washington hosts his brother’s Detroit Pistons.