Markieff Morris

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:

Isaiah Thomas, Nuggets, 30, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2018
The sad and swift decline in Thomas’ career hit a new low a couple of weeks ago when the veteran was informed by Nuggets coach Michael Malone he would not be in the rotation going forward. Thomas didn’t even make his season debut until mid-February due to his hip condition. He has only seen action in one game since March 8 — a scoreless seven-minute stint in Boston, where his career peaked two seasons ago when he averaged 28.9 PPG. Thomas will probably have to settle for another one year, “show me” contract this summer.

Tyus Jones, Timberwolves, 22, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6.54MM deal in 2015
Jones has received steady playing time since late February and is now the starter by default with Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose out for the rest of the season. He isn’t much of a scoring threat but he rarely turns the ball over. He’s averaging less than one turnover per game in 25.8 MPG this month. Teague has a $19MM option on his contract for next season and is expected to exercise it, so Jones’ starting gig probably won’t last. The Timberwolves can make Jones a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer of $3.57MM and that seems likely, given his age and steady hand at the point.

Markieff Morris, Thunder, 29, SF/PF (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $573K deal in 2019
The above salary figure doesn’t reflect that Morris was making $8.6MM before he was traded by the Wizards to the Pelicans, who waived him. He seemed to be walking into a good situation with a playoff-bound team but hasn’t made much of an impact. He’s averaging 6.0 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 15.9 MPG in 17 appearances with Oklahoma City. He played just seven scoreless minutes against Indiana on Wednesday. Morris brings enough to the table to be a rotation piece but it’s increasing unlikely he’ll get a starter-level offer on the open market.

Enes Kanter, Trail Blazers, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $653K deal in 2019
Jusuf Nurkic‘s gruesome leg injury changes the outlook for Kanter in the short- and long-term. He’ll suddenly be playing heavy minutes for Portland, which signed him as a backup after the Knicks reached a buyout agreement with him on his $18.6MM salary this season. A productive postseason by Kanter should enhance his prospects as an unrestricted free agent. He’s not going to make anyone’s All-Defense team but he’s a double-double machine when he plays half the game. While it seems Kanter has been around for awhile, he’s still only 26 and in the prime of his career.

Derrick Favors, Jazz, 27, PF (Up)– Signed to a two-year, $37.6MM deal in 2018
Favors’ $16.9MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed unless he’s on the roster through July 6. That seemed unlikely from the time he signed the deal but it’s not a given the Jazz will let him go. That salary isn’t outrageous for a starter and the Jazz have plenty of cap room to absorb that salary. Plus, they’d need to have a solid plan to replace Favors, who has posted a 21.9 PER this season. Favors nearly got dealt to Memphis for Mike Conley and Utah could use his expiring contract in a blockbuster trade next season if it retains him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Markieff Morris Doesn’t Want To “Force Things” With Thunder

Markieff Morris, who recently signed with the Thunder, is still learning Oklahoma City’s playbook and he’s trying to make an impact while fitting in with his new squad.

“For me, you just want to be a help to the team,” Morris tells Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. “You don’t want to come in and force things. You want everything to go smooth, how they went before you got here. So for me just getting acclimated to the offense and defense, playing with the guys.”

Morris has switched teams during the season once before. The Suns sent him to the Wizards during the 2015/16 campaign. The forward said he watches film on his new teammates in order to acclimate himself with his new squad.

Morris spent the first half of this season with the Wizards before suffering a neck injury. He was sent to the Pelicans in a trade for Wesley Johnson prior to the trade deadline.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Morris, Thomas, Layman

Scotty Hopson and Richard Solomon are both back on the free agent market after their 10-day contracts with the Thunder expired, according to the Real GM transactions page. Oklahoma City signed both players shortly before the All-Star break to reach the NBA’s roster limit. The team is back down to 13 players and will have two weeks to fill at least one opening.

Neither player saw any court time in OKC. Solomon has yet to appear in an NBA game, while Hopson played two games with the Cavaliers during the 2013/14 season and one with the Mavericks last year.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Markieff Morris has found a perfect opportunity with the Thunder, his twin brother said in a comment tweeted by Jay King of The Athletic. Markieff signed with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with the Pelicans, who acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. “I think that’s a great fit for him,” Marcus Morris said. “… I don’t think they have a guy like him over there. … I think he could be that piece that helps them battle it out with Golden State.”
  • Isaiah Thomas‘ return to action adds one more player to an already deep Nuggets backcourt and could present Michael Malone with his greatest coaching challenge of the season, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. In two games since returning from his latest hip surgery, Thomas has scored 24 points in 29 minutes and could be a valuable weapon off the bench for the rest of the season. Malone, who already had five guards that were getting regular playing time, unveiled a three-guard lineup Friday that had Thomas, Monte Morris and Gary Harris on the court together. “If we have to adjust, we will,” Malone said, “but playing small, you got three playmakers out there that can all generate shots for their teammates and get their own shot in Monte, in Isaiah, in Gary Harris. That’s a pretty good bench unit, if you ask me.”
  • Jake Layman has become a “secret weapon” for the Trail Blazers, notes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. A second-round pick in 2016, Layman saw little action during his first two NBA seasons, but has made a breakthrough this year through a combination of shooting and athleticism.

Northwest Notes: Kanter, Morris, Exum, Lillard

Enes Kanter‘s decision in free agency came down to two teams: the Trail Blazers and Lakers. Kanter, of course, chose to join the Blazers less than two weeks after being waived by the Knicks, labeling one major reason why he made his choice.

“I think it’s just the culture,” Kanter said, according to Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. “After I got released from the Knicks I got a lot of offers but I just wanted to wait. After (Blazers president of basketball operations) Neil (Olshey) talked to me, I was like ‘You know what, I think Portland is the team that I want to go to because I already know their good culture from four years ago when they offered be the contract.’ I think it’s the best decision for me. Then Dame (Lillard) texted me and I was like, ‘You know what, this is the best place that I can (be).’ Be with the team and go far.”

Kanter, a bruising center who holds career-averages of 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, is expected to provide depth off Portland’s bench as the postseason nears. He has an opportunity to prove his worth on a competitive team ahead of free agency, joining the Blazers as a locker room leader and veteran presence.

“It’s amazing, like a first year of school,” Kanter said. “I was actually nervous but I think they help me a lot. Amazing locker (room). From the first moment that I stepped in everybody was trying to help, talking to me about lots of stuff. It’s become very easy, I feel like I’ve been a part of this team for a long time from the first day.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • New Thunder forward Markieff Morris was cleared two weeks ago and is “feeling great,” Royce Young of ESPN tweets. Morris officially signed with Oklahoma City this week, having being diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia in his neck early last month.
  • Dante Exum participated in his first practice with the Jazz on Thursday since suffering a left ankle sprain in January, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes. “It was great,” teammate Rudy Gobert said about seeing Exum in practice, according to Woodyard. “I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot.” Exum was re-evaluated by the team and ruled out for Friday’s game against Oklahoma City, though his return date doesn’t appear to be far off. He’s missed 17 straight games with the injury.
  • Blazers star Damian Lillard explained why he’s stayed with the team throughout his career, appearing on the Posted Up podcast with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes this week. “I’m not willing to sell myself out for championships,” Lillard said. Lillard, drafted by Portland in 2012 with the No. 6 overall pick, is currently in his seventh season with the franchise.

Thunder Sign Markieff Morris

FEBRUARY 20: The signing is official, the Thunder announced on their website. Morris will make $573,295 over the next four months and will have a $427,288 cap hit, Bobby Marks posts on ESPN Now. Between Morris’ salary and luxury tax penalties, the total cost to OKC will be $2.2MM.

FEBRUARY 14: The Thunder have reached a contract agreement with free agent forward Markieff Morris, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Even after signing Richard Solomon and Scotty Hopson to 10-day deals today, Oklahoma City has an open roster spot, so no corresponding move will be required.

Morris, 29, spent most of the season with the Wizards, averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG on .436/.333/.781 shooting in 34 games (26.0 MPG). However, conscious of their proximity to the luxury tax threshold, the Wizards opted to trade him at last week’s deadline, saving some money by sending him to New Orleans along with a future second-round pick for Wesley Johnson.

After being subsequently waived by the Pelicans, Morris – who had been recovering from a neck injury – was cleared to resume full basketball activities and reportedly drew interest from the Rockets, Raptors, and Lakers in addition to the Thunder. The Nets were among the other clubs in the mix for him, tweets Charania.

[RELATED: 2019 Buyout Market Watch]

Morris represents an intriguing addition for the Thunder, who had been on the lookout for a stretch four due to Patrick Patterson‘s inconsistent play. While Morris wasn’t exactly having a career year in Washington, he’ll be an upgrade on Patterson, assuming he’s healthy. He should also help replace the shooting previously provided by Alex Abrines, who parted ways with Oklahoma City last week.

It’s not clear whether or not the Thunder will sign Morris right away. Postponing the transaction until after the All-Star break would create some savings on OKC’s cap and projected tax bill, so if Morris is on board with it, the club may wait.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Morris, Saric, Saunders

While the Thunder entered the All-Stat break with a loss to the Pelicans, the team will start the second half with an added boost. Oklahoma City agreed to terms with veteran big man Markieff Morris, which should fortify the team’s frontcourt.

Morris, who spent most of the season with the Wizards, has not played since December, when a neck injury forced him to the sidelines. While his role and performance were inconsistent in Washington, Morris averaged 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 34 games. Morris figures to serve as a primary backup at the four in Oklahoma City.

Brett Dawson and Fred Katz of The Athletic examined how Morris will fit in with the Thunder’s current roster. Katz compared Morris’ potential fit to that of Enes Kanter with a more capable perimeter game. While it remains to be seen how Morris settles in, at least one new teammate is excited by his arrival.

“We’re good,Paul George said. “We’re a good group. We added a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re gonna be ready for the second half after this break.”

Check out more Northwest Division notes:

  • The Timberwolves‘ decision to start Dario Saric in place of Taj Gibson led the team to score 74 points in the paint on Thursday. Interim head coach Ryan Saunders complimented Saric on creating space with his presence, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s one thing we like with Dario spacing the floor and having Taj in there at times, too,” Saunders said. “Karl(-Anthony Towns) has a little more opportunity to work. Playing through Karl is definitely a focus of ours.”
  • Speaking of Saunders, he’s only a few weeks into the job after the firing of Tom Thibodeau. Saunders praised the Timberwolves‘ players for easing his transition into head coaching duties, Feigen writes“Anything that’s new and sudden, it takes time to get more comfortable just in your regimen, your daily routine in things. But I felt comfortable out there,” he said. “The credit goes to the players in terms of how they make me feel, too.”
  • At 27-30, the Timberwolves are four games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. While their postseason odds are not great, the team insists there is reason for optimism entering the second half, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes.

Pacific Notes: Barnes, LeBron, Morris, Griffin

Now that the Kings have Harrison Barnes, the next step is to figure out the best role for him, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Acquired from the Mavericks last week, Barnes has played extensively at both forward spots and his usage in Sacramento may depend on the opponent, according to coach Dave Joerger.

“I’m still learning what to do,” Joerger said. “How much I do I want to play Harrison at (small forward)? How much at (power forward)? And what do the matchups look like? And I need to get it done sooner than later because we’re not going to find a rhythm if I don’t figure it out quickly.”

Barnes has played both positions extensively throughout his career, with 48% of his minutes as a three and 50% as a four. The Warriors used him mainly as a small forward when he broke into the league, but shifted him to power forward later in his tenure there. He was mainly a power forward in Dallas.

“It’s a good problem to have,” added Joerger, who said he has wanted Barnes on his team for years. “You want to be as versatile as we can be at times. It’s going to be a little bit on the run, as we know, and it’s tough on me, but guys are playing as hard as they can and that’s all you can ask as a coach. And it’s on me to figure some of that stuff out.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • LeBron James hasn’t lived up to the excitement that surrounded his decision to join the Lakers, contends Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. will enter the All-Star break with a 28-29 record, placing them 10th in the Western Conference. Plaschke notes that although James has been brilliant on the court, he missed 17 games with a groin injury and affected team chemistry by maneuvering to get head coach Luke Walton replaced and pushing for an Anthony Davis deal that caused all of his young teammates to be subjected to weeks of trade rumors.
  • The Lakers missed out on Enes Kanter in the buyout market, but they remain in the running for Markieff Morris, tweets ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who names the Rockets, Thunder and Raptors as the other top contenders. L.A. is also considering Carmelo Anthony, Shelburne adds, but is concerned because he hasn’t been active since November.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman examines whether the Clippers made the right move by trading away Blake Griffin last season.

Markieff Morris Draws Interest From Several Teams

Free agent forward Markieff Morris has drawn interest from the Rockets, Lakers and Raptors, agent Rich Paul told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Morris was dealt from the Wizards to the Pelicans last week and subsequently waived. He has not played since December 26 due to a neck injury, but was cleared to resume full basketball activities on Monday by spinal specialist Dr. Robert Watkins of Los Angeles, Haynes continues. He’s expected to decide which team to join this week, Haynes adds.

Morris, 29, has appeared in 34 games this season, including 15 starts, averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG.

All of Morris’ reported suitors have open roster spots via deals made prior to last week’s deadline. They’re also playoff contenders seeking a rotation piece for the stretch drive and postseason.

The Lakers’ interest was previously reported, though they’ve also been linked to Carmelo Anthony.

Celtics forward Marcus Morris posted a tweet on Monday expressing his desire to become teammates with his brother again, as they had been in Phoenix. However, the Celtics have not shown any interest in making that happen, according to an NBC Sports Boston report.

Magic Johnson To Meet With Lakers’ Players

After approximately half of the players on the Lakers‘ 15-man roster were mentioned in rumored trade talks for Anthony Davis within the last week, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson intends to meet with the club this weekend in Philadelphia, reports Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

According to Turner, Johnson will talk to the Lakers’ players about the Davis saga and will listen to every player who wants to say something, encouraging an open dialogue so that the Lakers can move forward and focus on the task ahead for the rest of the season. Turner writes that Johnson will emphasize “that the NBA is a business and that this franchise is about winning championships and doing all it can to accomplish that goal.”

Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were all featured in various Davis-related rumors last week, with reports suggesting that L.A. had offered each of those players in at least one package for the Pelicans’ star.

The ongoing chatter seemed to be affecting the Lakers on the court on Tuesday night, when the team suffered a 42-point loss in Indiana. However, L.A. bounced back on Thursday, winning a dramatic 129-128 contest over the Celtics.

At 28-27, the Lakers remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the West and currently sit 1.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Clippers. The club opened up a roster spot on Thursday and could add some reinforcements for the stretch run.

While Carmelo Anthony has frequently been linked to the Lakers, the team also has interest in Markieff Morris, assuming he’s healthy, Turner reports. Morris, who is dealing with a neck injury, was waived by the Pelicans on Thursday and is on track to reach free agency this weekend.

Celtics Notes: Deadline, Irving, Morris, Hawks’ Pick

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge explored the trade market, but ultimately stood pat after not finding any deals he liked, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“We spent a lot of time on the phone talking deals, looking for good ones,” Ainge said. “It was hard to find good ones this year just because we really like our team.”

While it may have been hard for Celtics fans to watch the Sixers, Bucks, and Raptors load up for the playoff race, the club remains confident that it has the pieces necessary to contend for the conference crown. As Blakely relays, Celtics players are happy the team’s core remained intact.

“The (trade) deadline was a lot, for a lot of other people,” Kyrie Irving said. “For us, we were pretty set. They made that very clear, management. So, I’m just happy we just have to focus on the rest of the season and have some fun doing so.”

Here’s more from out of Boston:

  • Irving called the moves made by the East’s other top teams “great pickups,” but he and his teammates were mostly unfazed by those clubs’ deadline deals, says Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Speaking of Irving, Ainge was asked again today during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub about the point guard’s upcoming free agency, and provided an interesting answer (link via ESPN.com). “The way I viewed the situation is that I think a lot of people, because of Kyrie’s announcement at the beginning of the year, thought that it was a marriage,” Ainge said. “And I think that it’s more like an engagement. And we’re going to get married on July 1st. I think that engagement is still on, as far as I know. In my individual conversations with Kyrie, we’re still engaged but we really can’t make those vows, sign that contract until July 1st.”
  • Markieff Morris was waived by the Pelicans at the deadline, but Marcus Morris won’t necessarily be pushing the Celtics to add his twin brother, pointing out that there might not be enough minutes to go around in Boston. As Forsberg relays for NBC Sports Boston, Morris just hopes that his brother doesn’t end up playing for one of Boston’s Eastern rivals. “We still trying to figure out what he’s going to do,” Marcus said of Markieff. “If he’s cleared [to return to play after a neck injury], then I’m definitely going to have the conversation with him. I’d rather him go to the West.”
  • Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports confirms (via Twitter) that the 2020 second-round pick the Celtics received in Thursday’s Jabari Bird trade is the Hawks‘ own selection and is top-55 protected. In other words, barring a massive turnaround from Atlanta next season, it won’t actually convey.