The rumor mill surrounding Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris is heating up again. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported on Sunday the Houston Rockets have interest in trading for Morris.
This was on the heels of Morris getting his first DNP-coach’s decision since he was a rookie against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier in the day. On Monday, Morris only played seven first-half minutes in Phoenix’s win over the Chicago Bulls.
The player Stein mentioned as a possible return for Morris was Rockets forward Terrence Jones, but completing a deal would not be that simple.
It does make sense that Houston wants Morris — Jones and forward Donatas Motiejunas are both restricted free agents this offseason. With a rising salary cap and a rash of teams looking to spend money, it’s almost certain both players will get more than the three years and $24 million left on Morris’ contract after 2015-16 wraps up.
Jones and Morris are reasonably similar players and flipping the two is smart from a money standpoint for Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
The problem is Jones makes slightly under $2.5 million this season, while Morris is getting paid $8 million. A straight-up trade of the two doesn’t work under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.
Before December 15, when players who signed this offseason can be moved in trades, it would take Houston adding either Ty Lawson or Trevor Ariza to create a workable deal. Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and K.J. McDaniels can be added to the list after that date.
A potentially interesting idea would be the Suns acquiring Lawson and Jones for Morris and P.J. Tucker, which works from a money perspective.
In this scenario, the Suns aren’t trading for Lawson as a player, only for Lawson as a contract. His deal is non-guaranteed for next season allowing Phoenix to not be hampered long-term. It would create a potentially awkward situation in the present much like the failed Goran Dragic-Eric Bledsoe-Isaiah Thomas threesome from last year. That’s before considering Devin Booker proving he deserves minutes on a regular basis in addition to Bledsoe and Brandon Knight.
If the Suns are willing to deal with Lawson on the roster (or owner Robert Sarver being open to buying out the rest of his contract for this season), this is something that passes the common sense test for both sides.
The Suns starting five would look like this:
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SF: T.J. Warren
PF: Terrence Jones
C: Tyson Chandler
And the bench (rotation):
Backup bigs: Alex Len, Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic
Backup wings/guards: Ty Lawson or
Ty Lawson,Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin, Ronnie Price and Sonny Weems
The Suns would need to acquire a prototypical wing at a later date to balance out the roster.
Out of the other options, I don’t see the Suns (purely my opinion using logic based on the type of moves general manager Ryan McDonough has made in the past) wanting to deal for Brewer and his contract that runs through 2017-18.
I could see the Suns having interest in Ariza, but doubt the Rockets are looking to do a Jones/Ariza for Morris swap.
Another deal that works financially once Dec. 15 passes is the Suns getting Jones, McDaniels and Sam Dekker with Houston receiving Morris.
That’s the most logical from a Suns perspective, but looks like a long shot for the Rockets.
Another possibility is getting a third team involved and creating a bigger trade. Without knowing any teams interested in joining the party it’s impossible to come up with any realistic scenarios.
While there are some pieces leading to the concept of a Suns-Rockets trade involving Markieff Morris a sensible idea, to actually make it happen it’s going to take a little bit of creativity from both sides.
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