In six games with the Atlanta Hawks during the 2017-18 NBA season, Jaylen Morris made a significant impression and earned supporters in the city. As a result of his performance on 10-day contracts, the Hawks elected to invest a multi-year deal in Morris but, given the presence of a non-guaranteed salary for the 2018-19 campaign, there was always risk that the 22-year-old from Molloy College would be waived before the start of his second professional season.
On Thursday, that possibility came to pass, as the Hawks elected to part ways with Morris. Because his contract was non-guaranteed, the Hawks will save $1.378 million in salary cap space for the upcoming season and, at this moment, Atlanta has only 14 players under contract.
Antonius Cleveland, who signed an identical contract to Morris, remains on the roster as the only player with non-guaranteed salary. The Hawks also create flexibility in the ability to take in an additional contract (with approximately $9 million in current cap space), with the league-wide maximum of 15 players at the start of the season and 20 players allowed for off-season and training camp purposes.
From a basketball standpoint, this could be a nod in the direction of Cleveland, who possesses higher upside given his physical tools, though it is plausible that the Hawks could also move on from him in the coming days. As for Morris, his defense-first persona made him NBA-ready upon arrival but, in the end, a lack of perimeter shooting and elite athleticism likely limits his ceiling considerably.
Lastly, the timing of the decision is at least slightly curious, given that the Hawks could have brought him to training camp (Morris’ contract did not guarantee until Jan. 10) but this early choice allows Morris to potentially catch on elsewhere. In addition, Atlanta could bring Morris back for training camp (without the salary cap penalty) and that is an avenue that could be explored.