According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Clippers will re-sign Marcus Morris to a 4-year, $64M deal when the free agency moratorium is lifted on November 22nd.
Frankly, it feels a bit high for Morris. With so few teams across the NBA having cap room above the mid-level exception, I would have hoped to see the team retain Marcus for a deal closer to 3 years, $36 million. The higher annual value and extra years seems less than ideal for a 31-year-old free agent who wasn’t likely to approach this kind of money on the open market.
Cost aside, however, re-signing Morris was one of the Clippers’ top priorities this summer. The team traded for him in February–including significant draft capital–and would have greatly regretted losing him in free agency after making an investment just a few months prior. While results for Morris were mixed in the playoffs, including an ejection for a flagrant foul on Luka Doncic and a double tech with Paul Millsap that may have contributed to sparking the Nuggets’ game 5 comeback, he largely fit in well alongside Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Notably, he seemed to accept settling into a supporting role, making a strong defensive impact in the Mavs series by switching onto Doncic and shooting 47.5% from deep throughout the playoffs.
With maximum raises, Morris’ 4-year, $64M deal could begin with a starting salary of $14.9M. That would leave the Clippers around $16M under the hard cap, which would only be triggered if the team used the non-taxpayer mid-level exception of $9.3M. With 10 players on the roster, the Clippers need to fill at least four more roster spots. Utilizing the $9.3M MLE and the $3.6M bi-annual exception, plus adding two veteran’s minimum players (one of whom is reportedly going to be Patrick Patterson) would put the Clippers just $20,000 over the hard cap.
Suffice to say that convincing their free agent acquisitions to take a combined $20k pay cut to make the roster work would be the least of their worries. The greater worry would be the implied departure of veteran forward JaMychal Green, who has made tremendous contributions to the Clippers over the last two seasons. Green opted out of a $5M player option earlier this week.
Of course, Green could return for the Clippers for less than his player option, or the team could save money elsewhere (like trading Patrick Beverley or Lou Williams for a guard with a slightly cheaper contract) to free up additional flexibility to re-sign him. They could also opt to forego the $9.3M non-taxpayer mid-level exception and avoid the hard cap altogether, leaving them with flexibility to re-sign Green and add another player with the $5.7M taxpayer mid-level. The $3.6M bi-annual goes hand-in-hand with the non-taxpayer MLE, so that would no longer be available to the Clippers as well.