As Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris continues to ride the bench and remain on the roster, the noise about trading the forward isn’t going to subside. December 15 has arrived, making the majority of the NBA available to be traded and opening up more options for Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough.
The first rumor of a deal to the Houston Rockets was addressed last week, which brings us to the second rumor. Yahoo! Sports linked Morris to the New Orleans Pelicans and discussed the idea of Ryan Anderson being available.
The logistics of this trade are much simpler than what we dealt with regarding the Rockets. Anderson and Morris can simply be exchanged in a straight up one-for-one deal if the two parties decided they wanted to go that route.
This concept doesn’t make much sense for multiple reasons, unless the situation with Morris is untenable (to this point there have been no indications that it is based on his behavior) and Anderson is the best the Suns can come away with.
The money aspect is the most obvious negative angle. Anderson is an expiring contract, while as discussed in previous story, Morris is under contract for another three years on a reasonable deal.
The Pelicans forward is going to make a boat load of money this offseason.
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
Phoenix is projected to have between $19 million and $25 million in cap space according to basketball insiders.com. If you take away Morris’ $7.4 million cap figure, that puts you at approximately $26 million to $32 million.
Let’s say the idea of Anderson getting a max contract is slightly high and instead he gets a four-year deal starting at $15 million. Is that a smart investment (even with the low-end projection) for the Suns, with where their roster stands, to appropriate a significant chunk of resources into a player who will be entering his year 29 season?
A younger vet between the ages of 23 and 26 that fits better with the timeline of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, Alex Len, T.J. Warren is more logical for that type of spending. Unless, of course, they were able to acquire a player of a significantly higher level than Anderson.
This is before even mentioning Phoenix can probably bring back Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic, who have a similar skill set, for less.
Team-based performance statistics from basketball-reference.com and ESPN’s real-plus minus indicate Leuer and Teletovic have been more impactful players this season than Anderson. That’s going off a 20-plus game sample size and Anderson has proven capable of playing at this level (even higher for portions of his career) for longer stretches than either of Phoenix’s forwards.
It’s fairly obvious there’s no need for all three of them on the roster — only so much money can be devoted to stretch shooting power forwards/small ball centers. There needs to be a level of a diversity, putting players that fit together and cover up for each others flaws, rather than too many doing the same thing well. When constructing a roster, it’s important to be careful about piling up repetitive skills, even if they’re a positive.
The scenarios to be considered if a deal for Anderson were to be pursued are:
• Trading for and re-signing Anderson. Letting both Teletovic and Leuer walk.
• Trading for and re-signing Anderson along with keeping one of Teletovic or Leuer.
• Trading for Anderson and letting him walk opening up more cap space.
To me, dealing for Anderson is only a place the Suns should go if the Morris situation reaches mass hysteria levels. Out of the three options above, trading for Anderson and creating more cap space is the most reasonable angle. Having more money to spend is valuable, but the Suns have already set themselves up to have plenty of flexibility.
The Pelicans, like the Rockets, are teams positioning themselves to try to take advantage of an organization in a perceived vulnerable position. If the Suns agree to this sort of deal rather than having patience to try to recuperate Morris’ game, or waiting for something better to come along, will tell us a lot about what’s been going on behind the scenes.