NBA Rumor: Marcus Morris Trade?

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Maybe it’s the West Coast bias speaking here from this California-based scribe, but the Lakers vs. Clippers component of this trade deadline is on my short list of things to watch before the deadline. Not only are each of these teams out there searching for that one player who could push them over the top as title contenders, but also they’re well aware that keeping good players away from their Staples Center rival comes with a benefit too. To that end, a source confirmed that both teams are in pursuit of New York’s Marcus Morris. The Knicks small forward who is averaging 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds is on an expiring contract and is widely expected to be traded. The Knicks, the source said, want the Clippers’ Landry Shamet if they’re going to go in that direction with a deal.

Marcus Morris would rather stay a Knick

Morris, 30, represents a conundrum for New York before Thursday’s trade deadline. The Knicks could recoup a first-round pick for Morris, who is on an expiring contract, but also want to re-sign him in free agency. Morris, according to sources, would prefer to remain with the Knicks past the deadline and has told people he expects the team to offer a lucrative multi-year deal from New York in the summer.

The Knicks are probably going to get plenty of calls from teams interested in Marcus Morris between now and next Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. You would expect them to listen to any offers on Morris, because that’s what any team would do in their situation. But it’s worth noting that at least one team in touch with the Knicks recently was left with the impression that Morris and New York have strong mutual interest in reaching an agreement in free agency this summer, per SNY sources.

The problem for the Knicks and Miller is that Morris has proved valuable in the effort to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that won only 17 games last season. The 11-30 mark the Knicks took into the halfway point of the season did little to change the perception around the NBA. If those eight games in which Morris was sidelined are an indication, losing him would have them struggling to reach last season’s 17 victories. Asked if he has pleaded his case to keep Morris in town past the Feb. 6 trade deadline, Miler said with a smile, “I think obviously he’s valued by our organization.”

As the Knicks consider whether to deal Morris, who will be a free agent again this July, ahead of February’s trade deadline, they must also weigh whether they want to keep him long-term and what that would cost. Morris has professed his desire to stay with the franchise beyond the deadline and this summer. “I love our team,” he said. “I love our future. I just want to be a part of helping our young guys grow and grow out to be the great players they’re gonna be.” “That was the reason why I made the decision to come here, going back on the decisions I made, along with a lot of other things, but I’m here. I enjoy this organization. I enjoy the players they got here and I want to be here long-term.”

Opposing scouts and executives believe the Knicks might be able to get a late first-round pick for Morris if they decide to trade him — though it’s far from a consensus — or they could net a young player, maybe with second-round picks attached. He would be a boon for a playoff team in need of size on the perimeter, shooting and defense. The Knicks could also decide to keep him in hopes of building stability for their young roster and maximizing this season. If Morris wants to stay in New York long-term, he could re-sign with them in the offseason even if he does get traded.

When asked if he took the Knicks’ offer because he wanted to use this season to prove he should get a contract worth more than $41 million, Morris said he saw it as a risk worth taking. “I just bet on myself,” he said. “I came with the Knicks, I’d seen a great opportunity, I’d seen a great group of guys, and I wanted to bet on myself on an opportunity where I can showcase what I really can do and I thought that New York would be the perfect place for me to come.”

Opposing teams expect other contenders like the Clippers and Lakers to feel out the market for Morris as well. The issue for the Knicks will be matching salaries, as Morris is making $15 million this season. Another factor in any Morris deal? Some members of the Knicks organization believe Morris has long-term value with the club, SNY sources say. They have been impressed by his play and his leadership during the season and see him as a valuable player in the team they’re hoping to rebuild.

Any deal for the hot-shooting Morris likely would have to include a third team to absorb the contract numbers. The Hawks are under the salary cap and could be a facilitator in multiple deals. According to an NBA executive, the two shooting guards mostly on the outs in the Knicks’ rotation, Allonzo Trier and Wayne Ellington, have value and perhaps could net a distant-future second-rounder. Ellington surprisingly played five minutes at Phoenix, perhaps as a showcase.

Morris has expressed publicly and privately his desire to stay loyal with the Knicks, and the team is said to prefer to keep him. Bertans will be a free agent at the end of the season and team executives expect him to command a lucrative multiyear contract. There has been no shortage of interest from teams in regards to a trade or acquiring him unrestricted free agency, and some teams believe it is sensible for Washington to move him. The Wizards have maintained that they plan to keep Bertans and retain him in July.

With that in mind, we talked to a three teams about how they value Marcus Morris, who signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Knicks over the summer after reneging on his agreement with the Spurs. The consensus among those teams — not all contenders — was that Morris could return a first-round pick, depending on the following factors: Does the team have championship aspirations and believe Morris helps push them toward that goal? Does the team see value at the back end of the first round of the draft? If not, the club would be willing to give up a first-round pick for Morris.

The market for Morris, according to opposing scouts and execs, is probably a team that believes his addition could help push them further into the playoffs. Morris is likely the only player on the Knicks who could get dealt this season who could get a first-round pick back in return, those sources believe. The Knicks could also ask for a young player with upside. It’s not unanimous, though, that the Knicks would definitely get a first-rounder back for Morris, those scouts and executives say. Drawing a first-round pick is difficult. Last season it was only done by teams willing to take on bad contracts to free up cap space ahead of free agency — something the Knicks were unwilling to do this summer and may not be willing to do now either — and by the Knicks when they traded Porzingis.

Late Wednesday, following the Knicks’ snapping their 10-game skid in San Francisco, Morris was asked point-blank if he has a yen to head to a club with stronger playoff designs. Not a chance, Morris said. “I’m aware of that,” Morris said of the potential of being dealt. “It’s part of the game, but like I said in the beginning, I love being in New York, win, lose or draw. I’m here to try and help turn this thing around. I’m not really looking to get traded, that’s just my personal opinion.

“That’s what I’m saying – this stuff is crazy,” Van Gundy said of media reports. “And I’m not going to be the guy to step up and say, ‘No, no, no. None of these guys are available.’ Because I’m not lying to anybody. “Here’s the thing: who do you think people call about? Are interested in? Your best players? Yeah. That’s who people call about. Yes, there’s always discussions about Reggie and Andre (Drummond) and Marcus (Morris) and Tobias (Harris) and Stanley (Johnson) and Jon Leuer. Always, yes. People call about them. There’s discussions about those guys on a daily basis. That’s who people call about. They are interested in those guys. So yes, those discussions take place all the time.”
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