Q&A With HoopsHabit’s Gerald Bourguet: Should Philadelphia 76ers Trade For Markieff Morris?

Dec 21, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) sits the bench in the final second of their 110-89 loss to the Utah Jazz at vivint.SmartHome Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) sits the bench in the final second of their 110-89 loss to the Utah Jazz at vivint.SmartHome Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers should refrain from trading for Markieff Morris, explains HoopsHabit’s own Gerald Bourguet.

If sports provide any indication, it’s that off-court demons trump on-court talent most of the time. Saturday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals matchup was an ugly spectacle.

Both linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam Jones displayed ruthless and vulgar tendencies that made teams hesitant to sign them when they were free agents during their respective careers. To a lesser extent, Markieff Morris has also showed instances of recklessness that have cast a negative light on his name.

Born in raised in Philadelphia, Morris had the luxury of playing with his twin brother Marcus Morris at the University of Kansas for three seasons and with the Phoenix Suns in the NBA. When Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough traded Marcus to Detroit this past offseason, Markieff felt evidently confused and betrayed.

While Marcus is having a breakout campaign up north for the Pistons (14.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.0 APG), Markieff has been letting his animosity towards Phoenix affect his production. The 26-year-old has seen his minutes decrease, playing only six total minutes in his last five games. His consistent DNPs have crashed his trade value and shooting a career-worst 38.1 percent from the floor isn’t going to entice many teams to pay a hefty price for his services.

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However, Morris’ still is averaging a respectable 10.1 PPG and 4.5 RPG in the 2015-16 season. If he possibly alters his mentality playing for another organization, his value could once again be worth the $24 million he’s going to make over the next three seasons following 2015-16.

The Philadelphia 76ers have targeted buy-low talents on the market and Morris could be had for cheap as his value continues to slide. However, is he going to change his attitude and compete without issues?

To get a more accurate gauge on Morris, I talked to HoopsHabit Suns beat writer Gerald Bourguet, formerly of Valley of the Suns via email.

Jake Hyman: What have been some of the reasons for Morris’ collapse in Phoenix?

Gerald Bourguet: This really just comes down to the departure of his brother Marcus via trade. That was the turning point for this whole unhappy relationship between player and organization, even after Markieff’s 2014-15 season featured so much off-court controversy.

That trade drove a wedge between Keef and the Suns, and even after he publicly recommitted to the team on Media Day, it’s quickly become clear he’s still unhappy. Unhappy players just don’t play well, and with Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer exceeding expectations, he’s been relegated to bench duty…leading to a few outbursts like the towel throwing incident.

JH: Where does his trade value stand now from the start of the season?

GB: Somehow, Keef’s trade value has sunk even lower than it was at the start of the season. Everyone knows he’s unhappy, his numbers are way down from last season and general manager Ryan McDonough’s unspoken gamble that Morris could play his way into boosting his trade value back up is looking like a lost bet. Add in the towel incident and subsequent two-game suspension and Morris is not helping the public perception of him as a head case.

JH: How eager are the Suns in trading Morris?

GB: Publicly, they’re committed to getting him back on track and making the playoffs. Behind closed doors, however, they have to realize the season is lost with Eric Bledsoe going down. They have to understand on some level that this uncomfortable situation can’t continue.

Morris is on a bargain contract, in the first year of a four-year deal worth $32 million, but he’s been so bad this season he hasn’t even lived up to it. For both sides, a trade would probably be for the best.

JH: What do you think is the compensation the Suns are looking for?

GB: It’s tempting to say “anything that’s not a bag of peanuts,” but McDonough has not been known to take a loss in a trade. Even in the more harshly criticized deals of his tenure, he managed to get some sort of compensation in return. McD knows Keef is on a bargain contract that other teams would be interested in, since you can be guaranteed he’d start playing better the moment he left Phoenix. But at this point, beggars might not be able to be choosers.

JH: What would Philadelphia have to do to deal for him?

GB: Unless the Sixers are including an enticing draft pick of some sort, I don’t see it happening. The Sixers have tons of cap room, so the contracts of the exchanged players wouldn’t need to match up, but the only players Phoenix would be interested in are Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor — who are obviously off limits from Philly’s viewpoint. Unless Sam Hinkie is willing to provide a sweetener draft pick of some sort, I’d be surprised to see Keef heading home to Philadelphia.

JH: Would he change his mentality if dealt to his hometown?

GB: I think he’d be happier playing for any team that isn’t the Phoenix Suns at this point, but given his attitude, I’m not sure he’d be particularly thrilled playing for the lowly Sixers either. He’d probably view that as yet another slight from the Suns front office since Philly is basically the NBA’s Siberia at this point. Maybe he’d be happy to be home, but Keef is also a competitor. Playing on a team where wins are rare probably wouldn’t help his disposition very much.

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JH: Is he worth the headache?

GB: For Philadelphia, probably not. He’s not a good enough player to help change the team’s losing culture and he’d probably resent coming off the bench behind Nerlens Noel while playing for a rebuilding team. Given that the Sixers would also have to give up some sort of future draft pick for him in order to get the Suns to bite, trading for Markieff Morris probably shouldn’t be on Hinkie’s agenda.