When you’re 10-28, you’re likely going to be open for business at the NBA trade deadline. On the contrary, the New York Knicks are in the right frame of mind in wanting to retain their best player, Marcus Morris.
Wednesday morning Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill reported that the Knicks intend to hold on to Morris, who’s playing on a one-year, $15 million deal. Earlier this week, SNY’s Colin Martin and Ian Begley reported that some in the Knicks organization see value in keeping the 30-year-old forward.
Morris, himself, has publicly stated his desire to stay in New York.
The gut reaction to the Knicks wanting to keep Morris is that it’s malpractice.
The Knicks are likely going to finish with one of the 10 worst records in the NBA for the fourth consecutive season. When that’s the case, management tends to sell off its veterans and/or players who have murky futures with the team. In all likelihood, outside of rookie RJ Barrett and second-year center Mitchell Robinson, no one is off limits in trade talks.
Morris is a veteran player on an expiring contract. For a rebuilding team with several young players such as Barrett, Robinson, Kevin Knox, and Frank Ntilikina, among others, trading away a player like Morris creates more minutes for the aforementioned youngsters to showcase themselves.
Averaging 19.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting an astounding 46.9 percent from beyond the arc, Morris has been the Knicks’ best player. He has been a steady scorer, shooting off the dribble, and playing stout defense. The Knicks should be able to get a first-round pick from a contending team and/or a promising young player for Morris.
The more draft capital the better, as it can help facilitate a future blockbuster trade and add more youth to a rebuilding roster.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of benefits that come with them keeping and re-signing Morris in the offseason; there’s more than meets the eye.
Morris is in his prime. This is easily the best season of his NBA career and one that has opened a lot of eyes. Under both David Fizdale and Mike Miller, Morris has been the Knicks’ go-to scorer and showcased an ability to be a leader. He’s shooting off the dribble, draining perimeter jump shots, and finishing through contact.
For the bulk of his career, Marcus Morris has been viewed as a reliable starter. He has typically been a playoff team’s fourth or fifth scorer and mostly served as a tenacious, three-and-d player. With the Knicks, Morris has been given the liberty to play in isolation and be the driving force of their offense; he’s showing the NBA world the player he has always been.
He simply has the chance to be that alpha-dog scorer with the Knicks. Perhaps that’s where some of his positive feelings for the organization derive from?
Besides their perimeter defense (the Knicks went into Thursday 30th in the NBA in opponent three-point shooting percentage at 38.6 percent), the Knicks have held their own defensively this season. They’re playing considerably well in halfcourt sets, protecting the rim, and Morris is an integral part of that play.
For a team that struggled mightily on the defensive end for the better part of the last decade, having a tough, two-way player is refreshing for their sake.
How many veterans say they want to stick with the Knicks? A couple years ago, Enes Kanter pledged allegiance to the Knicks, and they benched him midway through the ensuing season to get a look at other players. He’s now playing for the division rival Boston Celtics.
Other than Kanter and Morris, commitment to the Knicks has been few and far between among veteran players. Teams that are obviously rebuilding or nowhere near contention shouldn’t take allegiance from a veteran player, especially of Morris’ caliber for granted.
By the way, who are the Knicks signing this summer?
All the top free agents either play the position of someone the Knicks want to be a fixture in their starting five (DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond), or the team simply has no shot at luring them based on direction (Anthony Davis).
The Knicks should absolutely be taking trade calls on players who they don’t project as long-term pieces to the puzzle, but that doesn’t mean they should hold a fire sale.
Let’s say they trade away all the players they signed over the summer (Morris, Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, and Reggie Bullock) for cap space and draft picks. They’re going to end up making the same type of signings in the upcoming offseason: players who want to prove themselves worthy of a larger contract with a different team the ensuing offseason.
The Knicks won’t get a better player than Morris from a production and leadership standpoint.
Continuity is paramount in the NBA. Look at the Denver Nuggets. They hit it big on their draft picks, yes, but they epitomize developing and building through a young core. When the time was right, they signed veterans to complement their young studs. Now they’re the two seed in the Western Conference for a second consecutive season.
The Knicks aren’t the Nuggets, but, at some point, they’re going to have to draw a line in the sand and hold onto established players who complement their young core.
They’ll likely have a top 10 pick in June’s NBA Draft, as well as a second-round pick in the mid-to-late 30s. Taking into account how the players they’ve drafted account for nearly half their roster, how does adding a late first-round pick enhance the Knicks’ future?
Now, if some team blows them away with an offer that includes multiple first-round picks or an up-and-coming player on a rookie deal and a first rounder, that could change the game. Realistically, though, no such offer will come their way.
Coming off a year where he proved himself to be more than just a crafty role player, Morris should be able to at least duplicate his $15 million salary over a two-to-three year period. It’s worth the price of admission for the Knicks.
Marcus Morris can continue being an identity player for the organization and someone who youngsters lean on. Declining the team options on the players they signed last summer to sign others to similar deals does nothing. The Knicks aren’t a contender now or next year with the roster they’ve assembled, but they’ve a better chance of defying the odds with familiar faces building continuity.
Moving on from 60 percent of the roster every offseason has contributed to seven consecutive playoff-deprived seasons for the Knicks. You can only get away with deliberately tanking and masking problems for so long with your fan base.
“There’s no loyalty in the NBA” is a statement spewed on occasion. The Knicks sticking with someone who’s loyal to them through a rough season would speak volumes. Maybe they can recreate their image by setting an example.