For most front offices, the process of evaluating Markieff Morris – and twin brother Marcus – started with their arrival at the University of Kansas in the fall of 2008.
Although the Morris twins stayed three seasons at Kansas, their evaluation – like most first-round NBA draft talent – began with conversations conducted well before the Morrises declared for the 2011 draft as juniors. In pursuit of details on Markieff Morris prior to the trade deadline, front offices gather new and deeper information through conversations with college coaches, academic advisers, AAU coaches, strength coaches, and most importantly, pro coaches, teammates and staff.
The Vertical talked to various team executives about the concerns of targeting Markieff Morris.
The pending felony charge
Front offices have leaned heavily on their security staffs, which are responsible for conducting legal background checks on Morris. In a lot of ways, that’s the most important research that needs to be done.
The pending felony aggravated assault charges facing Markieff and Marcus Morris have hung over the Suns since the January 2015 incident.
If a plea or conviction occurs after a trade, the team trading for Markieff Morris could expect to lose him for multiple games because of an NBA suspension. The looming concern over possible jail time further complicates a potential trade, and teams would want a complete understanding of the risks involved with the legal case. No organization wants to give up assets and suddenly learn that Morris would have to serve jail time.
If Morris were convicted of a felony, a team would have the right to void his contract based on the personal conduct policy in the contract. Nevertheless, that isn’t part of any team’s thought process in trading for him. Any team that completes a deal for him wants to minimize the impact of punishment and get maximum performance.
The locker room
Teams are intensely focused on how Markieff could impact the chemistry and character of their locker rooms. For teams involved in this process, the examination of their own locker rooms is crucial.
What’s the mix of veterans and young players? How many dominant personalities do we have? How many players are considered loners? Is there a tough guy to whom Morris would gravitate?
The main question teams are asking themselves: Do we have the right support system – the proper mechanisms in place – to accommodate Morris?
No matter the talent, most teams agree: Without support, Morris will have difficulty thriving.
How does Morris deal with adversity?
Beyond background and game scouting reports, teams have studied Morris’ body language on and off the floor.
Does Morris take that long walk directly toward the far corner of the bench? Does he walk past the head coach as the coach offers him a critique or criticism?
The December towel-throwing incident with Suns coach Jeff Hornacek hasn’t been an area of concern with teams The Vertical contacted. Executives accept that incidents do happen in the emotion of a game, and most agreed that particular episode had been magnified because of Morris’ past transgressions. However, if incidents like Wednesday’s altercation with teammate Archie Goodwin continue to occur, his trade value could be greatly diminished, if it isn’t already.
What did generate considerable concern with teams: how Markieff reacted to the trade of Marcus from Phoenix to Detroit in July. Front offices are asking: Are we getting a perpetually disgruntled player who cannot play without his brother? Or is Markieff largely only upset with the Suns’ management team?
The trust issue
Everyone acknowledges a breakdown in communication between the Suns and the Morrises during the summer, but prospective suitors wondered: How will trust be developed and maintained with our team should we trade for Markieff?
Teams carefully studied Marcus’ relationship with Detroit. Across the league, the findings have been consistent that Marcus has been professional and productive with the Pistons. No issues there.
What worries teams about Markieff is this: Will he come to a new team on his best behavior, be diligent on making a good first impression, only to revert to his old self?
As mentioned in The Vertical Phoenix Suns Trade Guide, teams agree that Markieff Morris has one of the best value contracts in the NBA. Executives consider his 2014 four-year, $32 million rookie extension below market value for a player of his capabilities. Despite a sub-par season, teams have been quick to overlook that production and largely focus on Morris’ background.
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