Over the last few years, the Washington Wizards have been trying to manually create a “stretch-four” to help with spacing for John Wall and Bradley Beal, with few results. The presence of a power forward who can both hold his own in the paint and stretch the floor with deep shooting has been a coveted addition, but one that has been difficult to obtain.
This is a Sept. 28, 2015, file photo showing Phoenix Suns’ Markieff Morris posing for a photograph during an NBA basketball media day, in Phoenix. The saga of the Morris twins and the Phoenix Suns has come to an end. The trade of Markeef Morris to the Washington Wizards brings an end to a turbulent time for the troubled franchise. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
The Feb. 18 trade deadline allowed Washington to finally acquire a player prepared to handle that position. Washington shipped forwards Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair as well as a top-eight protected draft pick to Phoenix in exchange for 6-foot, 10-inch Markieff Morris. Morris adds post play, length, athleticism and spacing (32 percent shooting from three-point range this season) to the Wizards—but can he add them to the playoffs? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: Washington is only 2.5 games behind eighth-seeded Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and Morris’s arrival gives them a shot in the arm. Morris has engaged in a nasty dispute with Phoenix’s front office this season, but he just averaged career-highs in points, rebounds and assists in last season. In his first full campaign as a starter he averaged 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in the 2014-2015 season. Washington’s getting healthy and now they’ve added more talent to their front court. I can easily see them finishing higher than the eighth seed.
Green: Morris has been a major disappointment this season, franchise feud or not. He recently got into a shoving match with Suns point guard Archie Goodwin and threw a towel in former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek’s face. He has talent, but he’s been such a malcontent I don’t see how he’ll spark a Wizards team that has suffered from their own chemistry issues this year. Morris would have been better served going to a team with more structure. When you look at the Wizards, you see a team with a losing record and a head coach on the hot seat. Morris’ addition not only won’t help Washington make the postseason—it could potentially rip the team apart.
Riley: Phoenix’s front office reneged on a verbal promise it made to Morris and his twin brother, Marcus, that the two would play together as long as they took less money on the contract extensions they both signed. Both twins could have garnered more money on the open market but they returned to Phoenix under false pretenses. Markieff had a right to be upset with the franchise. Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley, who played with Morris in Phoenix and rejoin him now on the Wizards, vouched for Morris’ character. Morris was already coming into his prime as a player, so a change of scenery plus playing with Wall should be enough to not only revive Morris’ disappointing season, but the Wizards’ as well.
Green: Morris is a good player who definitely has a place in the NBA, but his emotional outbursts were enough to detract from his reputation. There are so many problems for the Wizards that Morris alone won’t be enough to solve the situation. The team still lacks consistent focus, doesn’t play consistently good defense and too often has to deal with injuries to Beal and third-year forward Otto Porter. Morris will be a welcomed addition to the roster simply because he has talent, but he won’t be the Wizards’ season-savior.