When the Toronto Raptors tip off the 2015-16 season, the roster will look drastically different from the one that suffered a first-round sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards back in the spring.
While keeping the offence-first duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan intact, general manager Masai Ujiri has also managed to revamp the team with defensive-minded players in DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo and Canada’s own Cory Joseph.
Ujiri might not be done tinkering with the lineup as reports indicate Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris has demanded a trade.
“One thing for sure, I am not going to be there,” Morris told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I am not going to be there at all. That’s just what it is.”
The unrest between the athlete and the franchise is believed to have at least partially stemmed from the way the Suns handled the trade of Morris’s twin brother, Marcus, to the Detroit Pistons. The twins have played alongside one another for the majority of their basketball careers and the separation came after both players signed extensions with the Suns last September.
So would Markieff Morris be a good fit for the Raptors? Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of trading for the disgruntled forward.
As mentioned, the Raptors still have two of their three leading scorers from a season ago in DeRozan and Lowry, but the high-end offensive threats stop there. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams has signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving the Raptors short on players who can consistently put up points in bunches.
Morris, who averaged better than 15 points per game a season ago, would instantly become a top-three offensive option for a Toronto team that is thin in the frontcourt. As it stands now, the Raptors would likely roll out a rotation of Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson, and free-agent acquisition Luis Scola, with Biyombo seeing some minutes as well if the season were to start today.
Head coach Dwane Casey could also get creative and go small with either Carroll or James Johnson at the power forward position. Morris would assumably join the starting lineup beside Valanciunas and see the bulk of minutes at the four spot. He offers the ability to play on the post-up game, but can also stretch the floor with his three-point range. For his career, he is shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc.
Additionally, the former Kansas Jayhawk is only 25 years old and is extremely durable, playing in all but one game over the past three seasons. He has a team-friendly contract considering the skills he brings to the table, signing the aforementioned four-year extension worth $32 million with Phoenix that would kick in this year.
With Morris publicly stating his displeasure with his current organization, the cost for a player of his calibre may never be as low as it is now. If the price is right, Ujiri could be tempted to pull the trigger on a deal.
Speaking of the asking price, a trade between the clubs would almost certainly have to involve Patterson, considering the Suns’ lack of depth up front. Behind veteran centre Tyson Chandler and promising young big Alex Len, Morris is Phoenix’s only productive power forward. Playing Mirza Teletovic, and Jon Leuer is not going to cut it in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.
The Raptors would miss Patterson’s defence and mobility, not to mention his 37 percent shooting from three-point range to space out opposing defences. Going by net rating, which subtracts defensive rating from offensive rating, Patterson posted a mark of 5.3 to Morris’s 2.2 in 2014-15, per NBA.com. In a starting role, Patterson could be primed for a breakout season.
Morris’s personality also raises red flags. While intensity on the court is undoubtedly a positive, Morris, along with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, led the NBA in technical fouls in 2014-15.
Off the court, the former first-round pick has been involved in legal trouble, being charged with assault in April.
With Lowry and DeRozan setting the tone, the Raptors have been known for both their chemistry on the court as well as off of it over the past few seasons. Adding a fiery personalty like Morris may disrupt locker-room dynamics, although with such a high amount of turnover on the roster, the group will already have to adapt to the new faces.
Finally, Morris offers little-to-no rim protection out of the power forward spot, averaging 0.6 blocks per game for his career. Aside from Biyombo, whose amount of playing time may be sparse, the Raptors still do not have an imposing defensive presence in the paint. Morris would fill a number of needs for Casey’s group, but this isn’t one of them.