The Washington Wizards acquired disgruntled power forward Markieff Morris on Thursday from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for power forward Kris Humphries, center DeJuan Blair and a protected first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
The Wizards, 23-28 beginning the post-all-star break portion of the schedule on Thursday with three games in three nights, were looking for a jolt. Acquiring Morris has the chance of delivering that, though much of what the Wizards receive will be dependent on Morris’ approach to the game.
Morris has been upset with the Suns since they traded his twin brother, Marcus, in the offseason to the Detroit Pistons after signing the twins to contract extensions. Since then, Morris has seen his numbers take a significant dip, shoved teammate Archie Goodwin on the bench during a timeout on Feb. 10 and generally been a malcontent.
Goodwin told reporters on Thursday that the Suns players hugged Morris following news of the trade, referring to him as a “brother.” Suns coach Earl Watson said Morris handled himself “professionally” during Thursday’s practice.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman did not comment on the trade before the start of their game against the Utah Jazz because it had yet to be processed by the NBA.
Morris, 26, is averaging 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. He’s shooting just 39.7 percent from the field 28.9 percent from behind the 3-point line this season. He’s a career 32.4 percent 3-point shooter.
“I like it,” Bradley Beal said. “I like it a lot. I think he’s a physical presence and he’s a guy who can space the floor at the same time. He’s somebody who always has his teammates back at the end of the day. He’s always somebody you know every night he’s going to go to war with you so I’m excited to have him here. I know he’s going to do exceptionally well for us.”
He is under contract for the next three seasons at a $8 million per season. The NBA salary cap is expected to spike to $90 million or more next season, making Morris’ $8 million per year a moderate figure.
The 6-foot-10, 245-pound Morris had his best season in 2014-15, when he averaged 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, both career highs. Morris also started 82 games for the Suns that season. But, his field-goal percentage has declined each of the last three years. He is also a poor 3-point shooter. Morris is shooting just 28.9 percent from behind the 3-point line this season.
Morris played with current Wizards forward Jared Dudley when both were in Phoenix during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
“I had Markieff during his rookie year,” Dudley said. “He’s a good kid. When I was there, he had no problems. He had one problem, obviously this year when he had the situation where he felt disrespected, felt betrayed. I’m not going to defend him. Some of the stuff he did was unprofessional, but that being said, I guarantee you will have no problems with him here. He is a good friend of mine. I usually hang out with him in the summer time. It’s easy for me to mentor him. He’s a good kid. His mom lives 35-45 minutes away from here. He’s excited about coming here. I’ve already talked to him.
“He’s a starting power forward where he is very effective from 17 feet, 18 feet. He’s got a quick bounce where a lot of those drops off from John (Wall) will be dunks. He does have some flaws where he needs to work on his rebounding and defense, but he’s young. He has a good salary for this team moving forward and he’s someone we need. We need another body, another athlete. From the time he gets here, he’s going to be motivated to show people he’s not that player. He’s got a fresh start. Anytime you’ve got John Wall on your team, it’s going to make it a lot easier.”
Humphries had played just four minutes since Jan. 6. He began the season as the team’s starting power forward as it transitioned to small-ball lineups. Humphries tried to play the “stretch four” role and began shooting 3-point shots with regularity for the first time in his career. He made 34.3 percent of them. Injuries limited Humphries to just 28 games this season. In his season-plus with the Wizards, Humphries averaged 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Blair appeared in 58 games after being acquired in a trade for Emir Preldzic on July 16, 2014.
The first-round pick is protected for the first nine spots, which means the Wizards are likely to lose it in the trade. Entering Thursday night’s game, Washington was 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Washington now has an open roster spot. It can be filled with the disabled player exception, which is available to the Wizards until March 10. Martell Webster was waived on Nov. 30 because of season-ending hip surgery.