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Upon further review: Dissecting Wizards' trade for Morris


Upon further review: Dissecting Wizards' trade for Morris

Surprised by the Wizards pulling off an 11th-hour trade for Markieff Morris? The Wizards had been discussing a potential deal with the Phoenix Suns leading up to Thursday's deadline and were able to execute it in the last hour.

The NBA still has to approve the transaction and Morris, a 6-10 power forward with stretch capability despite shooting less than 30% from three-point range this season. The Suns received Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and a protected top 9 first-round 2016 draft pick:

Why Morris and why now?

He can play multiple frontcourt positions, from 3-5, which gives the Wizards versatility behind Marcin Gortat and Nene. That's something they didn't have with the departing players or Drew Gooden. And unlike Ryan Anderson, a hot topic because of his ability to stretch the floor to the three-point line, Morris is under contract for the next two years (2019 is non-guaranteed) and has the versatility edge. If they were going to give up a pick, they needed certainty. They also needed cost control because when the salary cap explodes from $70 million to about $89 million this summer, players like Morris and Anderson will cost a lot more than $8 million per year and that would handicap them from making other moves.

What does Morris bring on the court?

The Wizards have been a soft team all season, particularly on the inside. Coach Randy Wittman has said it. So have players. Morris, despite his penchant for stepping over the line at times, has the type of attitude on the court that they want. In the words of president Ernie Grunfeld, "I think this team needed a jolt." 

Will Morris start?

That's up to Wittman, but the expectation is yes. He's a starter. Jared Dudley would be the backup.

Will Morris be a problem in the locker room?

The expectation, of course, is that he won't be. The Wizards can't talk to a player directly before the trade though they have since then. They consulted ex-teammates (Marcin Gortat, Dudley), former coaches and college coaches, etc. The conclusion was he just needed a change of scenery. He was upset about his brother, Marcus, being traded by the Suns to the Detroit Pistons (and the fact that he took a salary cut to stay to play with his brother). His antics this year -- throwing a towel in the face of then-coach Jeff Hornacek and grabbing a teammate during a timeout, numerous fines and a two-game suspension -- are believed to be an aberration. He was not a problem for Phoenix before then. Marcus has been fine with the Detroit Pistons and the belief is that Markieff will be with Washington, too. A strong locker room should be able to handle one player who can be unruly. It's just not a good idea to have multiple players who fit that mold. 


Why were Humphries and Blair the players who had to go?

First, neither fit the scheme anymore. Rather than go to Blair at center, Wittman opted to go with small lineups that featured Dudley and Otto Porter at center as well as Gooden. Humphries didn't show the ability to adjust to the new pace-and-space system. Plus, both of their salaries made the deal work because in the NBA salaries have to be a close enough match to facilitate a deal. The Wizards are over the salary cap but under the luxury tax so they had to make this deal match almost dollar for dollar.

When will Morris play?

He's on his way to D.C. and should be here Friday morning and could be available to play vs. the Pistons at Verizon Center. All players have to pass their physicals for the trade to be official. That happened late Thursday night. 

Any concerns with giving up a first-round pick?

Allowing picks to walk is always something to think twice about. It's top 9 protected, so the rationale to consider is this: Will a better player than Morris, who'll likely be 20 years old tops, be available in the June draft? That's not likely, especially if the Wizards make the playoffs, because the pick would come outside the lottery. So you're looking at a low-teens to early-to-mid 20s pick. The Wizards already have some young pieces to develop (Kelly Oubre and Aaron White). Because Morris is proven, averaging double figures for three consecutive seasons including 15.3 last year, he was too tempting to pass up. Good teams aren't loaded with young players. Lottery teams are. 

Is the Disabled Player Exception still in play?

Yes. The Wizards moved two players to get back one, which puts them at 14 of the maximum 15 roster spots filled. They have until March 10 to act on the DPE, which means they can wait for players who are currently getting bought out of their deals to hit the open market. Exactly what kind of player they'd be looking for is too early to tell. It could depend on the health of the team. But as I reported yesterday, they have up to $2.8 million of the slot (created when the NBA granted them the waiver by cutting Martell Webster, half of his salary) to bring in one more player. However, the Wizards are an over-salary-cap but under-the-tax team. Before the Morris trade, they had about $2.4 million to offer under the DPE to stay out of the tax. With the Morris deal, that has been reduced to just above $1 million. They still have the advantage because they can offer the full amount, not the pro-rated amount of the veteran minimum that other teams will use.

What did this move have to do with future, such as the free-agent summer of 2016 and Kevin Durant?

That factored into this deal. It keeps the Wizards in play for Durant but it also gives them a core to build around. Of the six players the Wizards will have under contract -- Morris, Gortat, John Wall, Porter, Oubre and Bradley Beal -- five of them are starters. The rest of the roster spots will come open as contracts expire or the Wizards decline team options (Yes, the plan on keeping Beal though he's technically not under contract beyond this season). If luring big-name free agents doesn't work, this makes going to Plan B a lot easier to transition to because better pieces are in place.

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Elena Delle Donne the favorite to win WNBA MVP, according to league GMs

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Elena Delle Donne the favorite to win WNBA MVP, according to league GMs

Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne is one of the best players in the WNBA, and thus is always in the discussion for MVP honors. 

And heading into the 2019 season, league GMs give her the best chance of anyone to actually hoist the trophy when it's all said and done. 

In a WNBA.com survey of general managers, 42 percent picked Delle Donne to win MVP in 2019. Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury had the second-most votes at 25 percent, followed by A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas Aces at 17 percent then Las Vegas' Liz Cambage and Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun at eight percent. 

Delle Donne won her first and only WNBA MVP award in 2015 as a member of the Chicago Sky when she averaged a career-high 23.4 points per game. And with the Mystics set to make another run at the WNBA title (58 percent of GMs predicted Washington to have the most regular season wins in the Eastern Conference), she has a great opportunity to get her second this season. 


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Explained: What is an NBA supermax contract and how does it work?

Explained: What is an NBA supermax contract and how does it work?

As All-NBA teams are announced and franchises have to make decisions about contract extensions, fans will see the term "supermax contract" thrown around a lot. 

Here's a quick primer with everything you need to know about the NBA's most lucrative player deals. 

What is a supermax contract?

Officially known as the "Designated Veteran Player Extension," this rule allows teams to re-sign qualified players to maximum five-year contracts worth up to 35 percent of the salary cap with eight percent escalation in each subsequent year.

The length of the supermax deal depends on the player's years of NBA experience and years remaining on his current contract. 

  • A qualified player who has completed seven or eight years of service and has two years left on his contract is eligible for a four-year supermax (keeping the player with the same team for a total of six seasons)
  • A qualified player who has completed seven or eight years of service and has one year left on his contract is eligible for a five-year supermax (keeping the player with the same team for a total of six seasons)
  • A qualified free agent who has completed eight or nine years of service is eligible for a five-year supermax 

Furthermore, teams cannot trade a supermax player for the first year after he signs the contract.  

How much is a supermax contract worth?

Valued up to 35 percent of the salary cap in the initial year and subject to eight percent escalation in each subsequent year, these deals are mammoth money.

For example, the Wizards signed John Wall to a four-year supermax in the summer of 2017 when he had two years left on his contract. The supermax money begins in 2019-20 and pays Wall $38.15 million that year. With annual escalations, his supermax is worth $170.912 million over the four-year lifetime of the deal. 

According to a report by Yahoo's Chris Haynes, Damian Lillard—who has two years remaining on his current deal with the Trail Blazers and is expected to be named to an All-NBA team—will be offered a four-year supermax extension worth roughly $191 million this summer. 

Who is eligible to sign a supermax contract?

Very few players qualify for a supermax contract. First, only a player that has (or will have) completed eight years of NBA service by the end of his current contract is eligible to sign a supermax deal, which can only be offered by the team that drafted him or traded for his rookie contract. 

Then, a player must meet one of the following three criteria.

  • Be named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season or both seasons before it
  • OR, be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season or both seasons before it
  • OR, be named NBA MVP in any of the three previous seasons

Which players have received supermax contracts?

  • Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
  • James Harden - Houston Rockets
  • Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
  • John Wall - Washington Wizards

Who could receive a supermax contract this summer?

Anthony Davis is already eligible for a supermax offer from the Pelicans. And depending on the All-NBA, DPOY and MVP selections, the following players also could receive supermax offers:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks
  • Damian Lillard - Portland Trail Blazers
  • Klay Thompson - Golden State Warriors
  • Kemba Walker - Charlotte Hornets
  • Andre Drummond - Detroit Pistons
  • Bradley Beal - Washington Wizards 

What are the drawbacks to supermax deals?

The supermax contract was designed to help teams retain their players by allowing them to offer significantly more money than the competition; however, teams that offer such contracts are squeezing themselves in terms of salary cap room to fill out their rosters. 

No franchise can carry more than two supermax players at 35 percent of the cap each. Functionally, though, it's difficult for a team to have more than one.

Two supermax players would account for 70 percent of a team's salary in any given year, leaving the club virtually unable to sign a competitive supporting cast.