Markieff Morris has been a bargain for the Lakers this season.
Markieff Morris has been a bastion of reliability for the Lakers since LeBron James and Anthony Davis went down with injuries. The team’s third-lowest paid player that was signed last summer has become the team’s third-leading scorer over the last 10 games, averaging 13.3 points on 50% shooting.
Morris’ play has been bold, and his words have been just as brash. He said the Lakers aren’t going to be involved in the play-in games, and his play has been a big reason why they’ve been successful enough to avoid dropping far enough in the standings to enter that conversation.
His teammates have noticed. When Dennis Schröder was asked about Morris’ impressive production of late and how key it’s been for the Lakers, his very first thought was that his fellow starter deserves more.
“He’s gotta get paid. He’s tough. He’s helping us on the defensive end, he has such toughness. On the offensive end, spreading the floor, getting offensive rebounds after free throws,” Schröder said.
Schröder is right that Morris is worth more money than the $1.6 million, veteran’s minimum deal he took from the Lakers in free agency. But he wanted to sacrifice for a chance to repeat as champions, and luckily for him, Clippers owner Steve Balmer subsidized him and his twin Marcus’ shared bank account by giving the latter a four-year, $64 million deal during the offseason.
That 64 will look great in that joint account. Double up @Keefmorris— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) November 23, 2020
Look at Balmer, helping small businesses keep their valued employees. Admirable.
But in all seriousness, Morris will have a chance to get more money in free agency this summer with the way he’s been playing. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent, and the Lakers will have his Early Bird rights since this is his second season with the team, meaning they can give him a 175% raise on his current salary even while going over the cap, but for Morris that would not be a whole lot more, so it remains to be seen if he’ll have to head elsewhere to get one last payday, if that’s indeed what he’s after.
Those are discussions for another day, though. Free agency is months away, and for the Lakers, how well Morris is playing has had a practical impact right now. And not just since James and Davis went down, either, even if his influence has obviously been more pronounced over that period.
“You can see he’s helping us when the guys are there,” Schröder said. “And now, playing here without AD and LeBron, he has an impact every single game.”
For his part, Morris has credited a more consistent role for his success, but it’s unknown how much of that will continue when James and Davis return. Morris is unlikely to go back to getting DNP-CDs like he was earlier in the season, but with head coach Frank Vogel saying “I anticipate he’ll go back to the backup power forward role” when Davis gets back — likely later this week — Morris’ role likely won’t be as consistent as it has been for the last few weeks. He probably won’t be quite as productive as a result, but if he can keep up this level of play on a per-minute basis, it would be a huge asset for the Lakers.
Those questions will all be answered soon. Until then, Schröder is just glad his former Thunder-turned-Lakers teammate has been able to show what he can do.
“I’m happy for him,” Schröder said. “He’s just got to keep going. Even with them two coming back, he’s just got to keep doing it.”
If he can, Morris might have a chance to get the payday Schröder says he deserves.