Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Markieff Morris.
How did he play?
Compared to the 2019-20 season? Pretty poorly, but it would be dishonest to compare his situation from this past season to the previous season.
After playing a big role in the Lakers’ championship run in 2020, which included a pair of starts for him in the Western Conference semifinals, Morris struggled to carve out consistent minutes in Frank Vogel’s rotation. At the time, Morris’ was very open about his frustrations with his inconsistent role, but those feelings never reached a boiling point because a week later, Davis suffered the calf strain that kept him sidelined for over two months and Morris was moved into the starting lineup.
Once Morris started getting regular minutes, his production improved, but not enough for Vogel to keep him in the rotation when Davis returned. Morris ended the season having averaged 6.7 points per game on 40.5% shooting from the field and 31.1% shooting from 3-point range.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Morris will be an unrestricted free agent and the Lakers will have his Early Bird Rights, meaning that they can re-sign him to a contract worth up to 175% of his previous salary (approximately $2.83 million) without using cap space. They can also offer him up to a four-year contract, although it’s unlikely they’ll do that because he turns 32 in September.
Should he be back?
Yes. Shooting at the 4-spot is a premium in the NBA and while Morris isn’t the most consistent 3-point shooter in the league, he’s more valuable in his limited role than anyone the Lakers could conceivably sign in the open market to replace him. If asset management is the key for the Lakers this summer, then he should be kept.
Morris is also good insurance for a scenario in which the Lakers trade Kyle Kuzma this offseason. He and Kuzma are very different players, but he has the talent to come in and play behind Davis at a high level.
Lastly, Morris has gone on record and said that he wants to finish his career with the Lakers. Obviously that shouldn’t be the reason he’s brought back, but comments like that show he’s bought into what the organization is building and that’s more than a new signing can say.
The Lakers will surely pursue an upgrade over Morris if one becomes available, but if we’re operating under the assumption that Morris’ market is the veteran’s minimum, it will be hard to find one barring someone going ring-chasing.