Despite a lot of rumors leading up to the NBA Trade Deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately did not deal Kyle Kuzma, or Danny Green or anyone else on their roster for Marcus Morris, who the New York Knicks ultimately traded to the LA Clippers.
A post-deadline report from Ramona Shelburne may have revealed why:
Following up on Lakers-NYK talks. It wasn’t just Kyle Kuzma LA didn’t want to include in a deal for Marcus Morris. The Knicks also wanted Danny Green (to make the $ work) and future second round picks, per sources. Lakers decided that was too steep and walked away late.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 6, 2020
First, let me get my gut reaction to this proposed deal out of the way:
This is genuinely hilarious if it’s an accurate description of what the Knicks wanted. Morris is having a good year, don’t get me wrong. He was averaging 19.6 points per game while shooting 43.9% from three for the Knicks. Those are good numbers!
That said, the Knicks are arguably the worst team in the league, and I’d hazard a guess that Morris is not going to get 14.8 shots per game on the Clippers, nor get to use a career-high 24.3% of their possessions while on the floor to accumulate his empty calories. There is almost zero chance he would have gotten to on the Lakers, either.
So basically, the Knicks thought they could swindle the Lakers by saying that their best perimeter defender — Green, who has 1.8 defensive win shares this season, the best of any player on the team other than LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard — and a 37.2% 3-point shooter who defenses respect as a floor-spacer was just a throw in to make money work.
And they wanted second-round picks and Kuzma too?
This would have been a horrendous deal for the Lakers, who would have gotten back a player that is better than Kuzma right now, but also one who is a free agent at the end of the season. To do so, though, they would have given up on Kuzma’s cheap contract and upside, second-round picks and a player in Green who fits far better positionally. It just makes no sense.
Morris is a fine player, but would have run into the same positional issues Kuzma has this season, stuck either playing out of position with James and Davis, or playing with a bench unit that is currently bereft of playmakers, all while getting less opportunities than he’s been given to put up empty numbers in New York. And to get this marginal upgrade, the Lakers would have had to give up their best perimeter defender as well, creating another hole in their rotation. This trade would have simply defied logic, and arguably created more problems than it solved.
And if all the stuff I mentioned previously isn’t bad enough, this deal might have made a team the Lakers could see in the playoffs even better, to boot:
Source: Had Marcus Morris gone to Lakers, not Clippers, at 11th hour before trade deadline, Mavericks believed they had a deal in place for Danny Green, one of their summer free agency targets.— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) February 6, 2020
So yeah, Morris would have been an interesting player to swap Kuzma for, straight-up, if the Lakers got the sense he would re-sign this summer. But that’s not even close to what it sounds like the Knicks wanted. The Lakers were right to walk away, or more accurately, would have been crazy not to under these circumstances.
Maybe Morris will make a difference for the Clippers in a seven-game series, or maybe not. But had the Lakers given up what the Knicks wanted for Morris, they would have been in a worse position against their cross-hall rivals in the postseason. If this leaked deal was the alternative, standing pat was the right call.