At only 26 years old, Phoenix doesn’t seem overly eager to move him, and it’s not hard to understand why. Morris is signed through 2019 on a very team-friendly contract of $8 million/year, and that’s an absolute bargain these days for his production. After all, Morris started all 82 games at power forward in the bruising West and averaged 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 31 minutes.
But since his successful 2014-15 campaign, several new developments seem to have soured the Morris-Suns relationship. To recap, here’s what we know:
- In the aftermath of the Suns trading his twin brother Marcus, Markieff requested a trade himself.
- His preferred destinations are said to be either Houston or Toronto.
- His twin brother Marcus previously played with the Rockets and remains on good terms with James Harden and most in the organization.
So given that backdrop, it was interesting to see who showed up in a Tuesday workout in Los Angeles largely comprised of current Rockets’ players:
— Clint Capela (@CapelaClint) September 2, 2015
From left to right, the players are K.J. McDaniels, Corey Brewer, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Jason Terry, James Harden, rookie Sam Dekker, retired NBA forward Al Harrington… and what appears to be Markieff Morris. (We’re reasonably confident that it’s Markieff and not Marcus in the photo, because Aaron Hines — who posted the picture on Instagram and is the director of training at the facility — tagged Markieff on his Instagram account.)
Anyway, aside from Morris, every single current NBA player in the workout belongs to one team. And not-so-coincidentally, it’s the same one that reports already linked Morris to. Message received!
That said, don’t expect Morris to end up with the Rockets anytime soon. It’s not that Houston would have no interest — rather, it’s simple salary cap math.
As an over-the-cap team, Houston would have to send outgoing salary near Morris’ $8 million/year deal. The Rockets have six “large” contracts of $6 million or higher that could facilitate a deal — Dwight Howard, Harden, Ty Lawson, Ariza, Brewer and Beverley. Howard and Harden are obviously untouchable, and Lawson and Ariza — while not to that level — are unlikely to be moved unless a major deal for an All-Star talent presents itself to GM Daryl Morey. That’s not Morris. And CBA rules prevent Brewer and Beverley from being dealt until Dec. 15, since they signed new contracts this offseason.
That said, if the Suns keep Morris until December — and they reportedly are not planning to trade him now — a deal could become more feasible. The Rockets have a clear surplus of wing talent with Harden, Ariza, Brewer, McDaniels, Dekker and Marcus Thornton all at two positions, and McDaniels’ $3.1-million salary — which becomes trade eligible on Dec. 15 — could go a long way toward bridging the financial gap.
Morris may not be an enormous upgrade on Motiejunas or Jones, but there’s a good case for why the Rockets could have interest. Both of the latter two are due for contract extensions after this upcoming season, and given the league’s new financial landscape, it’s easy to see both attracting eight-figure deals, at a minimum. Morris, on the other hand, is signed at a mere $8 million/year through the 2018-19 season, representing an attractive value for the always cap-conscious Morey. Morris is also a capable three-point shooter (33% career), and we know Morey likes the concept of a “stretch four” alongside Howard, as evidenced by Houston’s pursuits of Chris Bosh, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.
For now, Markieff seems unlikely to get his wish. But if he and the Suns wait until December, the possibility of Morris reuniting with his “workout buddies” in Houston could become very real.
Ben DuBose is a veteran sports reporter who has followed the Houston Rockets and the NBA since Hakeem Olajuwon was Akeem Olajuwon. He writes for both SheridanHoops and ClutchFans, an independent Rockets blog. You can follow him on Twitter.