This summer the CelticsBlog team will ask and answer the biggest questions around the Boston Celtics. These might be about free agent targets, the NBA Draft, the roster, roles on the team or strategy. To kick it off, we’ll start with:
Should the Boston Celtics salary dump Marcus Morris?
This question has come up often, as the Celtics are coming back with a deep roster that includes young players who developed faster than expected and veterans returning from injury (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis). Also, Boston is flirting with being a Luxury Tax team for the first time since the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett era. With concerns about eventually becoming a team that is subject to the far more punitive Repeater Tax, the logical place people look is for Boston to dump Marcus Morris on a team with cap space or a big enough trade exception to absorb his deal.
Here are the thoughts from the CelticsBlog team:
I’m not sure I can justify dumping a $5 million salary with the versatility and shot-making Marcus Morris brings, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Celtics move him for a position where they lack proper depth. With Gordon Hayward coming back and Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown developing into stars, I’m not sure there’s a consistent role for Morris. He’s still too good to be a situational vet, so his value on next year’s roster is questionable.
Morris will be a free agent after next year, so it might be in his best interest to get traded as well. Boston could theoretically our Morris in a trade package for a promising big man or a guard that’s under contract longer than Terry Rozier. If the Celtics can’t find a deal that they like I’m sure they’ll be fine with Morris returning and providing some offense off the bench and some veteran grit.
I’ll cheat and say “depends”.
Given the fluctuating value of Terry Rozier, ammo to trade up and into the 2017 draft, the free agency of Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and a foreseeable future for the future as tax payers, there’s potential for there to be some significant shakeup to the roster. Personally, unless Smart takes the qualifying offer or something similar, I don’t think all the Celtics playoff rotation players from 2017-2018 will be back.
Avery Bradley was a good player on a nice contract but was dealt for better roster balance and lower salary in cost-cutting situation last year. While I don’t think the prerogative is as high to lose money, trading Morris certainly would answer several potential questions, if other avenues don’t work out. I give it a 45% chance of happening.
Yes. Financially speaking, you can obviously keep him and be okay. Practically, this just doesn’t seem like a relationship meant to last. The Celtics are going to have Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward making up their wing rotation. Big rotation will have Aron Baynes (hopefully), Daniel Theis, and Al Horford with guys like Hayward or Tatum playing some backup 4. Even if we want to say that Morris is going to beat out Semi Ojeleye for minutes (which is absolutely possible), his realistic role on a fully healthy roster is maybe 15 minutes per game with him neither starting or closing the game. Chances are that’s not something a guy who was an important part of this year’s playoff run will like to hear in a contract year. The best move for both parties is to find him a home where he can play, and hopefully get back into the draft or get a younger player who they can develop behind the scenes.
For me, the question isn’t so much about Marcus Morris as it is about Semi Ojeleye. Assuming the Celtics run it back with more or less the same roster of Irving-Brown-Tatum-Hayward-Horford-Baynes-Rozier-Smart-Theis, that leaves Morris as the 10th man. I’m not suggesting that he’s the last man in the rotation, but because of his contract situation and age, he could be the most expendable, particularly with Ojeleye (and Guerschon Yabusele) potentially taking on a bigger role in his sophomore season. Morris is the better shot maker--ahem, more prolific shot _taker_--but if the Celtics need a superstar (Giannis, Simmons, LeBron) stopper moving forward, that will be a job for Ojeleye moving forward. If Morris + #27 can move Boston up in the draft to select a big or one comes available via trade, Ainge should jump at that opportunity.
This season showed just how important depth is. No one should approach next year as if Boston will again lose a top-of-the-line starter to injury for almost the entire year. Or a second All-Star about 3⁄4 of the way through the season. Or a key rotation big at around the same time. Or...well...you get the point.
But those things do happen. Or maybe one of the kids who developed so quickly takes a step back. In either situation, you want a veteran on the bench that you can count on. Sure, Morris might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially with his questionable shot selection on offense. But, more often than not, he was a positive contributor. He was always pretty solid on defense and on the glass and his offense was more good than it was bad.
Beyond that, the Celtics are lacking a fundamentally important part of roster building: mid-range contracts. Right now the roster is either top heavy with max guys (Irving, Hayward, Al Horford) or cheap rookie scale guys (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier) with precious little in the middle. It’s those mid-range deals you often need to make the math work in trades. Morris provides solid depth, plus a tradable contract. You can’t beat that.
Sure, the tax is a concern. But that is something to worry about down the line (more to come on this topic later this summer in a full scale review of the Celtics cap situation right here on CelticsBlog). Morris isn’t James Harden, but concerns about paying the tax down the line broke up the Oklahoma City Thunder long before they should have gone their separate ways. If the concern is about Morris’ attitude with a likely lesser role, then move him. No need for locker room lawyers. But if it’s just money, worry about that later and keep this team together.
If there is a question you would like the CelticsBlog team to answer in a future roundtable, please post it and we may grab it later this summer!