The Chicago Bulls don’t currently have a ton of cap space available, but they will likely be in the hunt to sign a few players with their mid-level exception. There is one reigning NBA champion the team should avoid at all costs.
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Markieff Morris Listed as Potential Bulls Target with Mid-Level Exception
Morris just helped the Los Angeles Lakers win an NBA championship in the Bubble. It was the first of his NBA career and he heads into free agency with this momentum working like the wind at his back in a dash for cash during this likely abbreviated offseason.
NBC Sports’ KC Johnson lists Morris as a potential free-agent target for the Bulls who could presumably use their mid-level exception to sign him. Johnson listed a few players on this list, including Jae Crowder, former Bulls E’Twaun Moore, and D.J. Augustin and Derrick Jones. According to Johnson, these are the pros and cons of signing Morris.
Pros: Let’s keep the Bulls’ focus on raiding players who appeared in the NBA Finals. In some ways, Morris is a slightly larger, slightly more menacing and slightly less expensive version of Crowder. Like Crowder, he has bounced around but has made a positive impact more often than not. Doesn’t need the ball to be effective. Could be veteran insurance if the Bulls trade Thaddeus Young.
Cons: He can sometimes cross the line with his emotion and physicality. After agreeing to a buyout from the Detroit Pistons to join the Lakers, he may not be open to signing with a team trying to exit a rebuild.
I’d insist there are more cons than what Johnson has listed here.
Why Morris Isn’t The Right Fit in Chicago
Morris has good size for the power forward position at 6’8″ 245 pounds. He’s a solid three-point shooter who converted over 40 percent of his three-point attempts during the Los Angeles Lakers title run in the bubble, and he brings an aura of toughness with him.
However, Morris has a few other traits that should make him less than desirable to a rebuilding team like the Bulls. Morris’ demeanor and lack of professionalism at times is a red flag.
Morris has been criticized in the past for his poor attitude and has had a few instances of dirty play as well. This takedown of the Washington Wizards’ Davis Bertans is one example.
Many people saw Morris with the Lakers and might be quick to assume he’s matured and taken a step in this aspect of his career, but you don’t have to look far to find players whose behavior drastically improves when in the presence of transcendent leaders and superstars like LeBron James.
What happens when Morris is back in another rebuilding environment like the one he was in with the Phoenix Suns? Those were the worst times of Morris’ career from a perception standpoint. He was once suspended for two games and forced to apologize before being allowed to rejoin the team.
On the court, Morris looked like a defensive liability when caught in a switch in pick-and-roll situations with the Lakers. Were it not for the defensive greatness of Anthony Davis, Morris would have been exposed far more than he was in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
Let’s also not forget his egregious gaffe at the end of Game 5 when he inexplicably hurled the ball over Davis’ head in the closing seconds to negate a herculean effort by James.
Davis had his defender sealed under the basket, and a clearly rattled Morris couldn’t make the simple entry pass that would have closed out the Heat a game earlier. That’s not to mention a red-hot James was wide open at the three-point line while Morris was air-mailing the pass. Where was Morris’ perceived toughness then?
We talked about Morris’ three-point prowess, especially during the postseason. He deserves credit for that, but part of the reason he shot so well is that the presence of James and Davis on the floor resulted in a wealth of wide-open looks. Who do the Bulls have on their roster who can get him similar shots? Aside from Zach LaVine, I’m not sure who that could be.
Who do the Bulls have on their roster who can heighten the chances that Morris isn’t a toxic presence in the locker room and on the court? Perhaps it’s new head coach Billy Donovan, but something tells me that’s not enough.
I’m not saying Morris can’t be an asset anywhere, but it’s highly unlikely he provides the Bulls with anything of value as they attempt to redirect the franchise.