Marcus Morris had an excellent audition for the LA Clippers Sunday afternoon, but it would still be best if he stayed in New York.
Amid trade rumors that have linked him to the LA Clippers, Marcus Morris came into STAPLES Center Sunday afternoon and put on a show. The 30-year-old forward went off for a career-high 38 points, connecting on six of his seven attempts from three-point range and posting a true shooting percentage of 81.2.
It was a great effort, and one that stood out from his already-impressive season with the New York Knicks. Morris is averaging a career-best 19.1 points per game and shooting nearly 47 percent from beyond the arc. Unsurprisingly, he’s posting a career-high usage percentage as well.
He’s been considered one of the most likely candidates to finish the season with a contender practically all year, and the Clippers are supposedly right there in the mix, along with the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.
On paper, Morris and the Clippers seem like a perfect marriage. He’s physical, can shoot the three, and would instantly become one of the biggest guys on the roster. LA was reportedly interested in adding him over the summer as well, but Morris wound up signing elsewhere.
That said, there are numerous reasons why the partnership would negatively affect the LA Clippers.
For starters, Morris is on a one-year deal worth $15 million. To match his salary, the Clippers would almost certainly have to begin any trade package with Maurice Harkless.
Despite slumping recently, Harkless has been a solid addition to this roster. His fit is seamless on both ends of the floor, and he’s been one of LA’s best defenders all season. He has his good days and bad days on offense, but for the most part, he’s a reliable wing with tremendous versatility on defense — which is something Morris doesn’t offer.
For what it’s worth, I think Harkless will eventually be traded this season. But there are better wings out there than Morris (namely Andre Iguodala and Robert Covington) that could better fit the Clippers’ needs.
Additionally, LA could include Jerome Robinson, or a few other young assets to make up the difference. The Knicks would also like to return a first-round pick as part of the deal, and the Clippers are in short supply.
Giving up that much for a player on a one-year deal (who could always sign elsewhere over the summer, a la Jeff Green a few years back) would be an overpay, and there’s always the chance that his asking price could be driven up if other teams put together competitive offers.
Furthermore, Morris’ numbers are not sustainable on a championship-contending team.
His scoring numbers are a product of the role he plays for the Knicks, in which he’s one of their primary offensive players. Julius Randle is the only player on the team that has a higher usage rate than Morris, and that would not be reciprocated in Los Angeles when Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard all need their fair share of the ball. You don’t want him to take away their looks.
But most of all, Morris’ defense is the biggest reason why the Clippers should stay away.
He’s been a negative on that end of the floor this season, and while that may be linked to the fact that he plays for the New York Knicks, it isn’t just team defense that’s bringing his numbers down.
Against the Clippers, Morris lost players on defense on numerous occasions, typically leading to wide-open three-point attempts. At one point in particular during yesterday’s game, Green snuck down to the corner and put up a poorly-contested triple right in Morris’ face. The bucket put the Clippers up 126-120 with less than four minutes in the game.
To put it simply, there are much better players out there that better suit the Clippers’ needs than Morris does, if the Clippers are looking to trade for a wing at all. He’s had a solid year in New York, but LA shouldn’t fret if another contender ends up with him on their roster.
Trading for Morris is something Doc Rivers the GM would have done, especially after that player just had a career-best performance against his team. It’d be short-sighted, and it ultimately may not move the needle enough for the LA Clippers to unlock their full potential and win a title this season. For that alone, the Clippers should be out.