Markieff Morris didn’t have a role with the Dallas Mavericks last season. It likely wasn’t what the veteran journeyman power forward envisioned after the Brooklyn Nets traded him to Dallas with Kyrie Irving. Dallas was a team with a desperate need for physicality in the frontcourt, and Morris had a reputation as a tough player, sometimes to his detriment. Instead, he was a nonfactor.
Morris, who recently turned 34, found himself sitting at the end of the bench watching the action on the court with Dallas. He rarely took off his warmups to check-in. He appeared in only eight games with the Mavericks last season, the same number as Facundo Campazzo. Only Tyler Dorsey and Chris Silva played in fewer games. Kemba Walker played in nine.
His time in Dallas wasn’t all a wash, however. In the second to last game of the season, Morris came off the bench and poured in a quick 13 points in eight minutes. He was rewarded for his efficiency by getting benched. The Mavericks deliberately tanked the game and didn’t want him ruining their plans. He started the last game of the season, scoring 10 points while shooting horribly in just under 27 minutes. Dallas lost both games by three and 21 points, respectively.
Despite being an afterthought on the roster, the Mavericks brought Morris back for another season. They announced his re-signing in mid-September. He is returning on a partially guaranteed one-year deal worth $3.2 million. Only $200,000 is guaranteed.
Given Morris’ contributions last season, or lack thereof, the obvious question surrounding his return is whether or not he will see an increase in playing time. It’s unlikely that Kidd will make him a starter anytime soon—Kidd has played fast and loose plugging veterans into the starting lineup before—but in a reserve role, Morris could provide something against opponents’ second and third units.
He has plenty of outside obstacles in his way, though. Morris will compete with several teammates to earn minutes and establish himself. The Mavericks’ loaded frontcourt includes Richaun Holmes, Maxi Kleber, Dereck Lively II, Dwight Powell, and Grant Williams. Olivier-Maxence Prosper could also see time at the four, further complicating Morris’ path to a defined role.
If Morris can come off the bench and average six to seven points and four rebounds in 10 to 15 minutes when called upon, it would be a considerable improvement over last season. It would also help him become a viable depth option if and when the Mavericks’ big men get into foul trouble when they face some of the league’s elite big men, like Nikola Jokic. Morris particularly dislikes Jokic, even though he is the one who started the altercation with the NBA Champion and two-time MVP, which resulted in Morris missing significant time with whiplash in 2022.
It’s well within the realm of possibilities that Morris winds up riding the bench again. However, with only $200,000 of his contract guaranteed, he could very well find himself off the team and on waivers if he doesn’t contribute positively to the roster.
Morris and his twin brother, Marcus, also made some comments recently that warrant further scrutiny from the Mavericks and the media.
There are almost too many variables at play regarding whether Morris will have an impact with the Mavericks this season. He needs a strong training camp and some luck to overcome all the bodies that Dallas has stacked in the frontcourt. At age 34, there should still be something left in his tank, but it might not be enough to usurp the minutes of the younger talent and long-time Mavericks veterans that surround him.