NBA trade grades: Clippers get Marcus Morris from Knicks, send former lottery pick to Wizards
The Clippers managed to improve their frontcourt and take away a Lakers trade target in one fell swoop
Marcus Morris has been one of the hottest names on the trade market this season. A rare two-way wing on one of the NBA's worst teams, Morris made sense on virtually any contender. The sweepstakes appeared to come down to the two Los Angeles teams, and now, a winner has been declared in the Clippers.
For Morris, the Clippers gave up Maurice Harkless, the player that Morris will replace in the starting lineup, along with their 2020 first-round pick. In addition, they are sending former lottery pick Jerome Robinson to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, whom they plan to waive, according to The Athletic's David Aldridge. That will create a roster spot that they can use on the buyout market. It is unclear whom they might target with that slot, but for now, let's grade this deal for the Clippers, Knicks and Wizards.
Clippers trade grade: A-
- Los Angeles gets: Marcus Morris, Isaiah Thomas
- Los Angeles loses: Moe Harkless, Issuf Sanon, Jerome Robinson, 2020 first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick (via Detroit)
As far as their 2020 championship odds are concerned, the Clippers didn't sacrifice a thing to get Morris. He is an upgrade over Harkless at the same position. Obviously the Clippers would have loved to keep their first-round pick given their lack of such assets moving forward, but they just materially improved without sacrificing anything of note from their actual roster. They swapped a 32.6 percent career 3-point shooter for someone hitting nearly 44 percent of his attempts this season without downgrading defensively. That's a huge win.
But that wasn't even the best part of this deal. The real win for the Clippers is keeping Morris away from the Lakers. While the Clippers have more than enough two-way wings, the Lakers don't have anyone on their roster at the moment capable of defending Kawhi Leonard across a seven-game series. Morris was their best chance at finding one, and the Clippers took him off of the market. While this hardly guarantees victory over the Lakers, the odds in such a playoff series just tilted heavily in their favor.
The only reason this isn't an A+ is the opportunity cost. What else was on the market is unclear, but the Clippers chose to shore up an area of strength by acquiring Morris. In Leonard and Paul George, they already had the best pair of wings in the NBA, and while Harkless isn't Morris, he is more than serviceable. But the Clippers still lack playmaking. They rank 24th in total passes per game and 23rd in assist percentage. They could also use a big man to match up against the Lakers' size. The Warriors played Ivica Zubac off of the floor in the playoffs last season, and Montrezl Harrell is too small to hang with Anthony Davis for seven games.
The Clippers had one trade package to offer: their first-round pick, Harkless' expiring salary and some combination of their lesser young players. They chose to use it on a wing, leaving their existing weaknesses in place. That may come back to haunt them, but they have perhaps the best group of wings the NBA has ever seen. That alone will take the Clippers very far. If they manage to turn the roster spot trading Robinson creates into a rotation player? Then all the better.
Knicks trade grade: B+
- New York gets: Moe Harkless, Issuf Sanon, Clippers' 2020 first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick (via Detroit), Swap Rights with the Clippers on their 2021 first-round pick
- New York loses: Marcus Morris
The Knicks had absolutely no incentive to keep Morris. Even if he was a part of their long-term plans, the Knicks can create max cap space rather easily. They could still pursue him in free agency this summer, but they had to get something of value for him while they could. Keeping Morris out of the playoffs served no one.
Fortunately, the Knicks managed to turn two months of Morris into a valuable asset. The Clippers are currently slated to earn the No. 27 overall pick, so that's hardly a premium selection, but it also isn't the only benefit to making this move. In moving Morris, perhaps their only two-way wing and the player who has led their late-game offense with R.J. Barrett out, the Knicks have also likely improved their own draft position by weakening their current roster. Throw in a second-rounder and the one-in-a-million chance that their swap rights for next season come into play, and the Knicks walked away with meaningful draft capital.
Ideally, the Knicks would have turned Morris into a young player with more overall value, but such a player does not seem to have been on the market. The Lakers reportedly took Kyle Kuzma off of the table in negotiations, and the Clippers refused to give up Landry Shamet. Considering how little they gave up as far as their own future is concerned, the Knicks did well to at least get an asset in return
Wizards trade grade: A+
- Washington gets: Jerome Robinson
- Washington loses: Isaiah Thomas
This is about as basic as trades get. The Wizards are a rebuilding team with an injured point guard on a max contract expected to return next season. They have the worst defense in the NBA by a country mile. They have no use whatsoever for the worst defensive point guard in the NBA at age 30. So they gave up a player that they took a minimum-salary flyer on this summer, and in exchange, get the No. 12 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
No, Jerome Robinson has not produced for the Clippers, but he hasn't exactly been in position to do so, either. He spent his rookie season trapped behind fellow rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veterans Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Avery Bradley and Garrett Temple on the depth chart, and after the Clippers jumped into contention for this season, they simply weren't going to devote developmental minutes to him.
Washington has worked wonders with talented young players cast adrift by other teams. Moritz Wagner was salary ballast in the Anthony Davis trade, but he has grown into a very valuable offensive player in Washington. Jordan McRae and Isaac Bonga have had similar success. While Robinson may still struggle in Washington, the potential upside paired with how little was given up makes this an excellent deal for the Wizards.
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