Let’s start with what we know, because that’s always easiest. According to The Atheltic’s Shams Charania, the Lakers are frontrunners to sign Markieff Morris, who was recently bought out by the Detroit Pistons. Look, he tweeted it right here:
What else do we know? Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way first:
- The Lakers were interested in making a move at the trade deadline, but for a variety of reasons — not liking the proposed deals, not wanting to disrupt chemistry, not wanting to create new holes on the roster while filling/upgrading a current one — did not make a deal.
- The Lakers were interested in adding Darren Collison on the buyout market, but Collison stayed retired.
- The Lakers have a need for a big wing-type of player who has some defensive versatility and can make open 3 pointers.
- The Lakers were interested in Markieff’s brother Marcus, but he ultimately went to the Clippers in a trade.
- The Lakers currently have a full 15-man roster and would need to waive a player to take on Markieff after he clears waivers.
What we know, then, is that the Lakers likely have interest in Markieff — per Charania’s report — and that, despite not making a move at the deadline or not yet on the buyout market, they clearly seem open to it. The things that we do not know, however, is how much the other things we know are solved by Kieff. So, let’s get to those…
Would Kieff be the big wing the Lakers want/need? Probably not. Kieff is much more a pure PF than he is a combo forward at this stage of his career. He has some ball skills, but he’s always been known as the “lesser” player compared to his brother and that “lesser” view of him is mostly built on more limited versatility (and, honestly, skill level overall), on both sides of the ball, comparatively.
Kieff isn’t quite the ball handler or shot creator and is not quite the defender either. Kieff simply isn’t a wing stopper and is much more likely to thrive guarding PF’s only than he would chasing a shooting wing around screens or holding up on an island in isolation vs. some of the power wings the Lakers would have to contend with on their way to a championship (i.e. Kawhi or Giannis or, potentially, Siakam or Ben Simmons or Tatum). It doesn’t mean he can’t do these things (and we’d get into that more should the Lakers actually land him), but in an ideal world he’d not be the first option for these types of defensive matchups.
Offensively, Morris could be a good fit, though. This season he’s hitting 39.7% of his 3-pointers on a little over 4 attempts per game. More specifically, those shooting splits by shot location show he’s shooting 46.9% from the left corner and a whopping 39.2% on threes that come from above the break. That last number is critical considering the number of 3’s the Lakers take from those spots on the floor, what percentage of those shots they currently hit, and the want for defenses to limit the number of attempts from the corner in general.1The Lakers, like most teams, shoot roughly 3 times the number of above the break three’s than they do from the corners. The Lakers currently rank 20th in the league, making 34.2% of their above the break 3’s. Kyle Kuzma, who often plays the “stretch-PF role” for the Lakers is hitting 26.4% on those shots this year.
As for who the Lakers would waive should they actually agree to terms with Morris, it’s a tricky thing and I don’t know which way the team would lean. There are currently 4 players on the roster who are currently not regularly in the rotation for one reason or another: Cook, Daniels, Dudley, and Cousins. There are arguments to keep any of them and arguments to cut any of them if needed. I’d have to see which one was cut should Kieff end up getting signed to offer any real analysis here, so rather than do guesswork, I’ll just cross that bridge when it’s time.
In the end, though, I’ll say this: the buyout market does not typically bring much value. I think Morris could be a good get, but turning a good get into a real contributor is a different ask. The Lakers could certainly use a player like Morris as insurance for/an alternative to Kuzma. They could use his shooting and size as a PF who could probably defend some small-ball Centers, freeing up AD to guard some bigger wings. There’s certainly potential value there, but converting that into actual value is the hurdle.
I’d also add that being a frontrunner for something doesn’t make it a guarantee. So, while I’d not put too much hope in getting a real rotation player off the buyout market, I’d especially not put a lot of hope into it if it hasn’t even happened yet.
In other words, sit tight and let’s see how this plays out before offering any fist pumps or congratulatory pats on the back about a Lakers Markieff Morris union. There’s still a few more steps for this to happen, including Morris clearing waivers. Until then, we wait.