Every contender dreams of adding a player as impactful as Markieff Morris was for the Los Angeles Lakers last season in the post-trade deadline buyout market.
In the playoffs, Morris averaged 5.9 points per game while shooting 42% from behind the arc, in addition to 3 rebounds per game. Outside of his mental lapse in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, he was tremendous, and his production put him in the conversation for the greatest post-trade deadline signing of all time. In fact, Morris was so good that no one knew if the Lakers would be able to bring him back.
Because the Lakers didn’t sign Morris until February, they only had his non-bird rights in free agency, meaning they couldn’t pay him more than 120% of the veteran’s minimum salary in his first year, at least not without using cap space. Meanwhile, other teams still had their bi-annual exceptions, including the LA Clippers, who Markieff’s twin brother Marcus plays for, and his hometown Philadelphia 76ers.
Fortunately for the Lakers, money wasn’t the most important thing for Morris in free agency, nor was playing alongside his brother again; winning was, and that led him right back to the defending champions.
“It was a crazy free agency and I just felt like this was the best place for me,” Morris said on Thursday. “I get to be a free agent next year, we’re gonna try and most likely back-to-back it and that’s what the whole thing is about man, trying to win this championship and I was back on board for that.”
Morris also could have competed for a title with the Clippers — likely with a bigger role, too — but he said he never considered switching sides like Montrezl Harrell infamously did this offseason.
“The Clippers situation, that was just talk, man,” Morris said. “They’re trying to scare the Lakers fans.”
Now, Morris will fight for a spot in Frank Vogel’s front court rotation. The competition will be tougher than it was last season, but as long as he knocks down his 3-point attempts at an efficient rate, he’ll get regular minutes.