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Countdown in Houston? Why a Markieff Morris trade might be on hold

LISTEN: Kevin Pelton, ESPN NBA Analyst

While the Phoenix Suns’ benching of Markieff Morris may or may not signal an intent to trade him, the thinking of a potential trade partner remains unclear.

The Houston Rockets have many more moving parts, which could delay a Phoenix trade even indirectly.

The Rockets have reported interest in acquiring Morris with an offer of swingman Corey Brewer and forward Terrence Jones going to the Suns, reports ESPN’s Marc Stein, but to trigger that deal, Houston must make sure any other trades on its end work in concert.

Other trades could include deals involving center Dwight Howard or point guard Ty Lawson, if we’re to listen to the rumors circling this week.

So the Suns remain in a holding pattern, and ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton doesn’t believe benching Morris in the meantime will alter his trade value.

“I don’t think the showcasing works when you’ve got a guy who’s an established starter like Markieff Morris. I don’t think his trade value would necessarily go down if you play him,” Pelton said Friday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns and Gambo show. “I think other teams recognize he’s unhappy in this situation, and that’s obviously affecting his performance — that’s why he’s getting traded in the first place. I think it’s really more of the case …. he’s not better right now than Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer, quite frankly.”

This leads us back to wondering if a deal is already in place to ship Morris out of Phoenix.

If the Rockets are involved, an obvious holdup is found in Brewer’s contract. His 2015-16 salary, $8.2 million, inked with the Rockets this offseason nearly doubled his prior earnings. That being at least 20 percent of a raise, and because the team has early-Bird rights on him, means Brewer cannot be traded until Jan. 15 due to salary cap rules.

So this could explain why Suns fans expecting a deal on Dec. 15 — when most other players on fresh contracts could be dealt — are still waiting.

The Rockets began the season as title contenders in the eyes of many, but the firing of head coach Kevin McHale appears to indicate general manager Daryl Morey is scrapping win-now mode. With that, Pelton suggests it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Rockets to part with Howard, whose contract ends after this season.

Additionally, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Lawson, who hasn’t fit well alongside James Harden, could also be moved. Following reports indicate it’s more of Lawson’s side that is pushing for a deal.

In his dive into trade options pertaining to Howard, Pelton brought forth an interesting theoretical situation.

If the Rockets are focused on getting something in exchange for Howard fearing he would leave in free agency, the Suns have the pieces to get involved. Pelton listed the Suns as one of five trade partners for a Howard deal.

“I think they’re a longshot but it’s hard to kind of find a good destination,” Pelton said Friday on the Burns and Gambo show.

Phoenix could include center Tyson Chandler and Morris in a package for Howard, but there are a few reasons that would be a longshot.

While the Rockets would replace Howard with a credible defensive-minded center, it would seemingly be against Morey’s past history to take on a contract that goes through 2018-19, when Chandler would make $13.4 million as a 36-year-old. On the other side of things, the Suns would be looking at losing Howard after using him as a three-month rental. They would, however, be in a better financial situation if there is worry about Chandler’s health down the road.

Pelton believes Boston and Washington are better fits for a Howard deal.

Whatever the truth is regarding the Suns’ willingness to deal Morris, the most active teams in the trade market and those with the highest-paid players usually set the charge for a series of moves league-wide.

That Phoenix could be dealing directly with such a team means general manager Ryan McDonough and Co. may be on hold, listening to elevator music coming from Morey’s phone line.

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