The potential of the Clippers and Lakers meeting in the Western Conference Finals this season is enough to make TV executives lose their minds. The ratings and interest around the country would be off the charts. Interestingly, the Clippers’ decision to trade for Marcus Morris might be enough to give them the edge over LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
It’s hard to describe the trade as anything other than a slam dunk for the Clippers. Moe Harkless didn’t have a meaningful role to play on the team in the playoffs. There are valid questions about whether or note Jerome Robinson even deserves to be on an NBA roster. As a result, the only thing of value the Clippers were forced to give up in the trade was their 2020 first round pick. That selection should occur very late in the opening round of this summer’s draft.
At the moment, you can bet on Los Angeles’ other team at +330 to win the NBA Title. It’s not a certainty that they will emerge as champions this season, but that wager represents excellent potential value for bettors interested in backing a slight underdog.
Morris will absolutely give Doc Rivers’ team a major boost in the regular season. He will fit seamlessly into a team that’s led by a pair of superstars in the form of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. At first glance, you might be inclined to think that Morris is too similar to those two megastars to really make an impact. A deeper look allows you to realize that the Clippers desperately needed another versatile big in their rotation.
The obvious benefit is that having Morris on the roster will allow Rivers to rest Leonard and George more often. He’s done a solid job of avoiding the temptation to run them into the ground thus far, but the temptation to push them to the limit will be heightened down the stretch. Playing someone like Harkless for 30 minutes when Leonard or George sits due to load management isn’t a reasonable choice for the coaching staff. Playing someone like Morris in that spot represents a much smaller drop-off.
The Clippers need to prioritize getting to the postseason with a healthy and relatively well-rested roster. That’s more important than trying to grind out enough wins to finish with home court advantage. Dealing for Morris gives them another quality rotation player capable of lowering the workload on everyone else.
Of course, the Clippers didn’t just deal for Morris in an effort to strengthen their regular season roster. A significant portion of his value is going to come during the playoffs. His versatility is going to make him a really tough match-up for the elite teams Los Angeles will need to battle down the stretch.
In particular, Morris’ ability to guard opposing centers of all shapes and sizes will solidify one of the Clippers’ biggest potential weaknesses. Montrezl Harrel is a great center against certain match-ups, but asking him to defend the post against behemoths like Ruby Gobert or Joel Embiid in the playoffs was always going to end poorly.
Morris isn’t going to shut down opposing centers, but he will prevent them from dominating the game on the offensive end. His ability to handle the ball and shoot adequately from the perimeter will also make opposing centers expend serious effort on the defensive end of the floor. The Clippers aren’t going to run their postseason offense through Morris for long stretches, but he can do some quality work for their second unit in brief bursts.
One of the most underrated aspects of this trade is that the Clippers were able to keep Morris away from their crosstown neighbors. The Lakers were absolutely interested in bringing him to Tinsel Town, but they lacked the assets to build a package capable of satisfying the Knicks. Credit the Clippers for successfully threading the needle between driving a hard bargain and giving up too much just to beat out the Lakers. This trade was a great example of deriving great value in spite of some meaningful competition.
Morris isn’t going to take over a playoff series that keys the Clippers to an NBA Title, but there’s a strong chance that he prevents an opposing big from doing so to knock LA out of a postseason series. That’s why the Clippers front office deserves a ton of credit for making the deal required to fill their biggest hole. You should strongly consider putting your money on LA’s “other” team before the odds catch up to just how much this deal strengthens them.