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Markieff Morris passes on signing with Lakers, opts to join Thunder

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Markieff Morris chose his next destination, and while the Lakers were on his radar, he ultimately chose the Thunder.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Markieff Morris had some level of interest in joining the Los Angeles Lakers, but has instead chosen to sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Shams Charania of The Athletic had the news:

This isn’t great for the Lakers, as Morris was one of the best options left on the market, but we’ll see where the team decides to go with their final roster spot from here. Stay tuned...

Original story continues below.

The Los Angeles Lakers have had an open roster spot for over a week now, and they have yet to fill it, perhaps because they are waiting on Markieff Morris to decide where he is going to play next.

Earlier this month, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Lakers had interesting in signing Morris, but only if he was healthy. On Thursday, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Morris had been cleared to resume full basketball activities after being sidelined for nearly two months with transient cervical neurapraxia, also known as a stinger.

For more on Morris’ injury, check out this video by Silver Screen and Roll’s own Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT:

Now that Morris has been cleared, he is expected to pick where he’ll play basketball next this week. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Lakers are among the teams he’s interested in playing for.

Of those teams, the Lakers are the only ones that are currently outside of the playoff picture. Houston, Oklahoma City and Toronto are all top-five seeds in their respective conferences.

However, while the Lakers can’t guarantee Morris postseason basketball, they can arguably offer him the most playing time before he hits free agency.

Houston might be able to offer Morris playing time right now because Clint Capela is injured, but once he returns he’ll have to fight for playing time with Capela, Kenneth Faried, PJ Tucker and Nene Hilario.

The same could be said of the Raptors, who have a stacked front court featuring Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby and, of course, Kawhi Leonard. Morris is a talented player, but he’d struggle to find playing time on a roster that deep.

The Thunder are the only team that seem to pose a real threat to Los Angeles on paper. Their depth at power forward is limited to Jerami Grant, Patrick Patterson and occasionally Abdel Nader and Paul George. If Morris can return to form, there’s a good chance he would leapfrog Patterson in the rotation.

Still, if it’s playing time Morris wants, the Lakers are probably the best spot for him.

After shipping Michael Beasley out at the NBA trade deadline, the Lakers only have one player on their roster that is best suited to play the power forward position: Kyle Kuzma. LeBron James has spent a decent amount of time playing the four, but he prefers to play the three. Moe Wagner and Mike Muscala have also spent some time playing power forward this season, but in a perfect world, they’d see most of their playing time at center.

Assuming Morris is 100 percent upon arrival, he could reasonably see 23-25 minutes per game with the Lakers, which is probably the type of role he’s looking for if he’s not going to start. He’s averaged 26.4 minutes per game throughout his career.

From a basketball standpoint, he’d be a no-brainer for the Lakers. Not only does he have a nice inside out game for his size (6-foot-10), but he would also give them a toughness on the glass that they don’t currently have. The 1.2 offensive rebounds her game would be the third-highest on the team behind JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler.

More often than not, players that are signed in the buyout market don’t move the needle too much, but that wouldn’t be the case with Morris. Maybe he doesn’t guarantee the Lakers a ticket to the postseason, but he gets them a lot closer if he returns at full strength.

Hopefully his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, can sway him into spending his winter in Los Angeles.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Christian on Twitter at @RadRivas.