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Markieff Morris Won't Return to Thunder Next Season Without More Playing Time

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2019

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Markieff Morris (5) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Markieff Morris cast doubt on his potential return to the Oklahoma City Thunder during his exit interview Thursday.

While speaking with reporters, Morris praised the Thunder organization and said he'd be open to re-signing with Oklahoma City as long as his role increases, per the Oklahoman's Maddie Lee:

Maddie Lee @maddie_m_lee

Markieff Morris, when asked about free agency, said if he’s playing the same minutes as he did this season, he’ll probably go elsewhere, but he’s loved pretty much everything else about the Thunder organization: https://t.co/qapSxkw970

The Thunder signed Morris in February after he moved from the Washington Wizards to the New Orleans Pelicans in a trade. The Pelicans quickly waived him, allowing him to pick his next destination.

Morris appeared in 24 games for OKC during the regular season, averaging 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 16.1 minutes. That represented a steep drop in playing time for the 29-year-old, who averaged 26.0 minutes in 34 games for the Wizards this season.

It'll be different for the Thunder to acquiesce to Morris' request since he's unlikely to supplant Jerami Grant as the starting power forward. At the same, general manager Sam Presti has to try to convince Morris to stick around.

The Thunder will be well above the salary cap in 2019-20, which significantly hampers Presti's ability to make any outside additions. Replacing Morris with a similar-caliber player wouldn't be easy.

Oklahoma City also needs as many three-point shooters as it can get to space the floor for Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook shot 36.0 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc in the Thunder's first-round defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers. Unless Westbrook is willing to alter his approach, the Thunder will have to work around the weaknesses of their biggest star, which likely means replicating the four-out strategy the Milwaukee Bucks use to cover up Giannis Antetokounmpo's limited range.

Morris isn't one of the biggest free agents on the market this summer, but losing him could be a huge blow for Oklahoma City nevertheless.

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