On an individual level, Marcus Morris' decision to sign with the New York Knicks couldn't be going better. The 30-year-old forward is having a career year with the Knicks, assuming more offensive responsibility and shooting more efficiently than ever before. The Knicks may be 10-28, but Morris is averaging 19.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 46.9 percent from deep, which only means good things for his trade value and his next contract. 

Morris reneged on a two-year deal worth $20 million with the San Antonio Spurs last summer to sign a one-year, $15 million contract with New York. He also turned down a three-year, $41 million deal from the Los Angeles Clippers. When the Knicks visited the Clippers on Sunday, he scored a career-high 38 points on 13-for-19 shooting and went 6 for 10 from deep. If you have been paying attention to trade rumors in advance of the Feb. 6 deadline, you might have already considered the idea of Morris playing at the Staples Center again this year in a different uniform, perhaps for one of the two home teams. 

Few players in the league are more logical trade candidates than Morris. He can help contenders and fringe contenders in a playoff setting, especially if he keeps up the hot shooting, because he can play on and off the ball, post up against mismatches and play effective defense. He is not a star, nor is he a stopper, but when he played for the Boston Celtics he guarded LeBron James for stretches in the conference finals without embarrassing himself. Rebuilding teams are typically happy to trade veterans on expiring contracts, but Yahoo Sports' Vince Goodwill reported that this is not the plan:

Knicks forward Marcus Morris Sr. is a hot name around league circles for so many reasons, but the Knicks have no plans on trading him, a source told Yahoo Sports.

The notion that his numbers are inflated because he's playing for the Knicks haven't quelled interest, but the Knicks seem set on keeping Morris as a piece for the present and future.

He likes playing in New York and for the franchise, two things that aren't a given with other players.

And the Knicks have six first-round picks in the next four years, so even the commodities they could get for him doesn't necessarily fit a need.

The Knicks need talent, proven talent, to go with their young pieces. Morris is respected in the locker room, and a bright spot on the floor in a season that's just starting to turn around after the early turmoil surrounding former coach David Fizdale.

Getting another late first-round pick — which is what quality teams would offer in a weak draft — doesn't sound so appealing.

It is also worth noting that Morris said that he wants to stick around in an interview with The Athletic's Mike Vorkunov:

"I love our team," he said. "I love our future. I just want to be a part of helping our young guys grow and grow out to be the great players they're gonna be.

"That was the reason why I made the decision to come here, going back on the decisions I made, along with a lot of other things, but I'm here. I enjoy this organization. I enjoy the players they got here and I want to be here long-term."

Morris also told The Athletic that he bet on himself by coming to New York, and he is "happy to be here to really showcase my talent and take my game to another level and continue to help my team and continue to win."

Three thoughts:

  • Skepticism is warranted when it comes to the idea that the Knicks will or should keep Morris. There is value in having him on the team from now until the end of the season, but New York isn't good enough to base big decisions on what they mean for the rest of the season. If the Knicks don't trade him, then they should be confident that they can either re-sign him at a fair price or sign-and-trade him. Given how far they are from contention, re-signing him would be a curious, shortsighted move, unless he is willing to take a discount and/or another one-year deal. 
  • Morris does have incentive to remain in New York beyond the deadline. He clearly feels that the role he's playing now is the one that he is meant to play, and it certainly gives him the opportunity to get numbers. Numbers tend to be helpful in contract negotiations.  
  • I wonder how much pressure the Knicks' front office feels to field a competent team for the remainder of the season. If there is a feeling that showing progress from now until April could convince ownership not to change the regime, then maybe even a first-round pick would not be enough for management to trade Morris. New York has been abysmal without him on the court.