In case Markieff Morris himself announcing that he’d return to the Lakers in free agency — reportedly on a veteran’s minimum contract — wasn’t official enough for you, the team confirmed the signing in a press release on Monday:
The Los Angeles Lakers have re-signed forward Markieff Morris, it was announced today by Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.
Morris played in 14 games (one start) for the Lakers last season, averaging 5.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in 14.2 minutes. In 21 playoff games (two starts) for Los Angeles, Morris shot a team-high 42.0 percent from three-point range and notched 5.9 points (.449 FG%), 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist.
Morris has played in 637 career games (348 starts) for the Suns, Wizards, Thunder, Pistons and Lakers, with averages of 11.4 points (.448 FG%), 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 25.5 minutes.
It’s no secret that the Lakers improved their front court rotation this offseason with their acquisitions of Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol, but Morris is still projected to have an important role on next year’s team because of the skills he showed last season.
Morris was one of the most coveted players in the buyout market last season because of his 3-point shooting. Through 44 games with the Detroit Pistons, Morris shot 39.7% from 3-point range on 4.3 attempts per game, both of which were career-highs for him. It took some time for him to find his shooting stroke in Los Angeles, but he figured it out eventually.
After shooting 33.3% from behind the arc in his first 14 appearances with the Lakers, Morris shot a scalding 42% from deep in the playoffs on 69 attempts. Morris was one of five players to shoot above 40% from 3-point range in the postseason on at least 60 attempts. The others were Donovan Mitchell, Robert Covington, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
If he can hang around 40% again this season, he’ll have a spot in the rotation. That’s especially true since the units he’s projected to play with will include players that aren’t the most reliable from behind the arc, including Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma.
Morris’s lights out shooting made him hard to take off of the floor in the playoffs, so Lakers head coach Frank Vogel experimented with lineups that featured him at the 4 — his natural position — and the 5, the latter of which proved to be a game-changer.
According to NBA.com, the five-man unit of Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Morris posted an offensive rating of 121.9 in the 67 minutes they played together in the playoffs. He was also the center in the unit made that blew Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals open.
Expect Morris to continue to get looks at the 5 next season in spite of the fact that they’re already pretty small at center. Morris played a career-high 33% of his minutes at center in the postseason.
Morris probably could have gotten more money by signing with another team like the Philadelphia 76ers, his hometown team, and the Clippers, where his twin brother Marcus plays, but he clearly feels like he can play a big role in helping the Lakers repeat. Let’s hope he’s right.