The 25-year-old is one of the most versatile interior scorers in the game, can guard multiple positions, and emerged as an elite crunch-time performer in 2014-2015. Making Morris even more attractive than his on-court performance is his extremely reasonable contract, one that will pay him approximately $8 million per year through 2018-2019 as the salary cap continues to skyrocket.
In a vacuum, GM Ryan McDonough would have no trouble finding worthwhile value for Morris on the trade market. He’d be an asset for any franchise. But the NBA is a soap opera, one that competing teams watch even more closely than the league’s most obsessive fans. You know the situation in Phoenix by now, and basketball’s 29 other chief decision-makers know it better than you do.
Morris no longer wants to play for the Suns, and his absence from the team’s unveiling of a new alternate jersey and court design on Tuesday lent further credence to the possibility he’ll never wear orange (and black?) again. Coach Jeff Hornacek, though, seems optimistic that the overarching specter of team sports will ultimately sway Phoenix back in good graces with its disgruntled starting power forward.
Here’s Hornacek on that possibility courtesy of arizonasports.com’s Craig Grialou:
“Hopefully [Markieff] can get here and we can all talk to him. I think once he gets here with the players — and maybe the players can help out in that regard — and realize that, probably like anything else, it happens when you might not be happy with the organization, but you’re a professional, you go out there and you play as hard as you can,” he said.
“Really, when you get out there and start playing games, you’re not playing for the organization, you’re probably not even playing for your coaches, you’re playing for yourself and your teammates because that’s the bond that those guys have as players, so once he gets playing with these guys I think he’ll be okay.”
Morris is a notoriously intense competitor. Though he’s best known by fans for leading the league in technicals last season, his reputation of possessing an ardent and unceasing desire to win has been well-earned – look no further than his prowess in the clutch as evidence of that fact.
Maybe Hornacek’s optimism, then, is more realistic than all of the latest momentum makes it appear. But his words also serve as a prudent and obvious negotiating tactic with potential trade partners, too.
No matter how imminent a future without Morris could become, why would the Suns ever cop to recognizing it? Trade value is a tricky thing in the NBA. Unless the player who’s obviously only the block is a legitimate superstar, the possible return for his services will always be lower than his performance dictates. Once a player and his incumbent team have reached the point of no return, the rest of the league has every incentive to offer trade packages that would otherwise seem a slap in the face.
That’s where Morris and Phoenix are now, and those are the calls McDonough is taking. It makes sense for the Suns to hang onto Morris at the moment; there’s just no way they’ll receive a meaningful stock of players or draft considerations when the parties are so clearly cross-ways.
Don’t buy the rhetoric from Hornacek or anyone else in the organization, basically. Unless you hear otherwise from Morris, by far the most likely outcome of this stalemate is that he’ll be playing somewhere other than Phoenix the next time he takes an NBA floor.