Wizards Ignite Playoff Aspirations By Adding Markieff Morris

Dec 4, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) dribbles past Washington Wizards guard Jared Dudley (1) during the second quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) dribbles past Washington Wizards guard Jared Dudley (1) during the second quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Wizards jumpstarted their playoff aspirations by adding Suns forward Markieff Morris.

Markieff Morris was one of the first NBA players truly on the trading block in the 2015-16 season, with a rebellious personality and oncourt incidents jeopardizing his future with the Phoenix Suns. Finally, Phoenix found a team willing to pay what they believed he was worth and end a painful marriage of team and player.

The Washington Wizards are banking on Morris transforming his image and elevating the play of an underwhelming team as we approach the stretch run of the NBA season. The team playing in the nation’s capital has had a myriad of issues that’s stunted their growth from last season’s playoff run.

Injuries to more than half of their starting lineup have been detrimental for Washington to maintain consistent progress in the standings and find continuity on the court. From Marcin Gortat‘s jacked up ear to Bradley Beal‘s shoulder and leg injuries, not even star point guard John Wall has been able to salvage the season with these consistent blows to the team’s personnel.

Getting Morris could be insurance for when Nene endures his seemingly annual injury in a long line of them that he’s had in his career.

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At 24-28, Washington can’t afford to lose players, especially with other teams vying to enter the playoffs as well and making the necessary moves to do so. Detroit added Tobias Harris from Orlando, which puts the Magic, one game out from Washington, at a disadvantage. While the Magic added more depth in point guard Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, giving up a productive starter for bench pieces isn’t a blueprint for late season contention.

Charlotte bolstered its shooting guard rotation adding Courtney Lee from the Grizzlies. Just two games up on Washington for the No. 8 seed, the Wizards had to either acknowledge that the lottery was inevitable or counter with a move of their own. It took a protected first round pick (top-9) that is likely to convey if Washington finds its way late in the season, but Morris turned out to be one of the most talented players traded at the deadline in 2016.

Morris, as some would admit, forced his way out of Phoenix and displayed poor behavior for a professional. Getting into fights with your teammates and coaches is unacceptable at any level in sports. You get kicked off the team in some cases.

However, Phoenix had a tradable commodity on their hands that they weren’t just going to sit on. The Suns may have gotten what they ultimately desired in a first round pick, but Morris, when motivated, has the ability to outperform any player the Suns could take in the 2016 draft with that selection.

Maybe Friday’s game against his brother Marcus and the Detroit Pistons could possibly initiate that fire and passion.

If there’s a definite trait that Morris is expected to bring to Washington, it’s the ability to diversify the offense. Even if he showcases the same unprofessional attitude he displayed at Phoenix, there’s no denying that Morris has an impact on the court due to his versatility.

He can play either off the bench or in the starting lineup for head coach Randy Wittman, who could use additional firepower on the second unit. Morris also is capable of providing a boost for a weak power forward contingency in Washington. The Wizards are among the worst teams in the league at getting production from their 4s, who rank near the bottom of the league in both points scored and rebounds per game.

Nene put up 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting last night in a 103-89 win against the Utah Jazz, but is averaging his lowest point per game total in eight seasons. In an injury-riddled 2015-16 campaign, he can possibly come off the bench for Washington in order to get the offense more juice with Morris in the starting lineup.

It’s almost paramount to get additional floor spacing in the offensive game plan, with center Marcin Gortat heavily invested in taking shots in the paint.

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Morris, a career 32.4 percent three-point shooter, isn’t the most efficient stretch-4 from behind the arc, but delve into more of his advanced numbers and you’ll see that he takes a lot of two-point jump shots. This season, Morris is shooting more shots from 10-19 feet away from the basket compared to five feet and in, showing that he takes more of a finesse approach on the offensive end.

Averaging 11.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, Morris’ numbers might be anomalistic due to the toxic situation he created for himself in Phoenix. SI.com’s Ben Golliver further articulates the possible breakthrough trade for the 26-year-old former first-round pick.

"“In Phoenix, Morris posted a terrible minus-9.3 net rating this season, leading former coach Jeff Hornacek to bench him at times and openly question his impact when he was on the court. Washington is left hoping that a badly-needed change of scenery will help Morris recapture his 2014-15 form (15.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 15.8 PER).“If that happens, Morris has a chance to deliver excellent value for the next three seasons, as his contract is relatively modest for a starting four and will only look better as the salary cap increases.”"

Let’s get to that contract, since that’s the value Phoenix thought they were getting when Morris put up his second straight season of solid play in 2014-15.

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Per Spotrac, Morris is set to make $8 million annually until 2019. That price tag will look even more appealing for Washington as the salary cap continues to ascend. Getting motivated to replicate either his 2013-14 or 2014-15 seasons will be vital for both parties involved, as Morris is capable of putting up 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 rebounds per game if given fluid minutes.

It would be easy to label Morris a stretch-4, considering he has a pension for taking many jump shots per game, but his offensive versatility is going to be the trait that Morris best offers the Wizards. He’ll make Washington more diverse on the offensive end and provide another scoring option outside of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Never known as a plus defender, sporting a career 106 defensive rating, Morris will be thankful to have the Polish Hammer handling the interior as a rim protector.

Morris’ production can be quantified because he’s been productive in the past. Both Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair weren’t featured in Wittman’s lineup and their numbers failed to impress. With Washington possibly landing anywhere from No. 8 to No. 17, it’s a crapshoot picking a talent that would match Morris value long-term.

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On the surface, Phoenix looked to have gotten their coveted first round pick for a player they were desperately trying to move. However, Washington could also come out as winners in this deal if they’re playing meaningful basketball late in April with Morris firmly entrenched in their rotation.