It’s been said many times the Wizards go as Markieff Morris does. This past season embodied the dynamic quite well as the team’s mercurial starting power forward had an inconsistent, up-and-down season, just like the team.
His season got off to a rough start thanks to off-season hernia surgery, which caused him to miss the entire preseason and the first six games while recovering from injury. You may recall he then had to miss a seventh game to serve a suspension for leaving the bench—in a game he didn’t even dress for—to get involved in the Bradley Beal - Draymond Green fracas.
Once he finally got on the floor, it was clear he wasn’t quite right. He only shot only 42 percent from the field in his first 14 games back. He looked slow at times on the court, particularly on defense.He had his breakthrough game on December 1 against the Detroit Pistons where he scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting. It marked the first time he had reached the 20-point mark in the season.
From that point, Morris would go on to shoot 53 percent from the field until April, where just like the Wizards, his play began to tail off a bit. He certainly showed glimpses of being a great complimentary player, especially when John Wall was injured, but his performance did little to change the narrative about his inconsistent play.
When the Wizards acquired Markieff Morris at the 2015 trade deadline, they were looking for a big man with athleticism, size, and some ability to stretch the floor to provide space for John Wall and other ball handlers to attack the paint. He has done all those things in spurts, but there have been far too many times where he hasn’t done those things well enough to take the next step.
Even at his best, Morris can be lackadaisical when it comes to defense and rebounding, and his frustrations can hurt the team at inopportune times. There were a number of frustrating moments that stood out throughout the season, including a late foul on Kyrie Irving which allowed the Celtics to sneak into overtime and steal a game the Wizards were on track to win and a silly technical foul which nearly cost them in a win against the Heat. Morris finished the season with 13 technical fouls, tied for fifth-most in the league this season.
In the playoffs, Morris displayed the same inconsistencies. He started with a bang, posting a 22 point, 11 rebound performance in Game 1, but was quiet the rest of the series. The Wizards had to rely more on Mike Scott, who was used in small ball lineups and actually ended up outscoring Morris in the series, despite playing 55 less minutes. Scott and Morris finished the series with a +33 and -27 plus/minus, respectively.
Despite his and his team’s disappointing play in the series, Morris was very dogmatic when he was asked after the series how he felt about how the Wizards matched up with the team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference:
Markieff Morris on the biggest takeaway from the series: "We was the better team." pic.twitter.com/oYmZZxZXUp— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 28, 2018
While Morris can be a little too arrogant about his team’s hopes at times, he’s also incredibly loyal. At the end of the season, he said he would “love” to stay with the Wizards for the rest of his career. You don’t hear that often with this team.
Now, as he enters the final year of what’s been a very team-friendly deal, the Wizards have to weigh their options. As frustrating as he’s been at times, it would be difficult to find someone who can provide equal or better value with what little money the Wizards would have to spend next summer. They could try to extend his contract this summer to avoid a bidding war next summer, but Washington would have to make a very competitive offer, which could bite them on the back end of the deal as Morris, who turns 29 in September, starts to get older. They could also explore trading him this summer, but they would likely have to package him as part of a bigger deal since his low salary by itself would make it difficult to find a good trade partner.
Whatever decision the Wizards make with Morris this season will say a lot about where they see him fitting in long-term and how they feel about him being the team’s barometer. Only time will tell what decision they make, but this past season didn’t make the Wizards’ decision any easier.