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Tonight we head west to Lawrence Kansas, to put the brash forward from Kansas Marcus Morris under the 2011 NBA draft microscope. Previously in this years series I have broken down Alec Burks, Klay Thompson, Tristan Thompson, and Chris Singleton….you can read those profiles elsewhere on Pacersdigest if you haven’t already.
Along with his twin brother Markieff, Marcus Morris led Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks to the number one ranking in all of college basketball this year, only to have his team upset in the NCAA tournament before reaching the final four. Still, this was a banner year for Morris, as he played extremely well for one of the most high profile teams in the nation.
Morris checked in at the NBA draft combine at a solid 230lbs, measuring out* at just under 6’9. He has relatively short arms for a player of that size, only having a wingspan of 6’10. While this is somewhat of a concern, it certainly will not keep him from being drafted in the upper half of the first round of this year’s draft I don’t believe.
For some weird unknown reason, Morris seems determined to think of himself as a perimeter player, a “3″ the modern day basketball parlance. I have no clue why he feels so strongly about that, but others in the past have felt that way as well, oddly obsessed with the position they are listed at.* Jermaine O’Neal and Tim Duncan for example basically played often like “centers”, but refused to be listed that way. I find it weird and off putting that a player has such strong feelings about an issue I find trivial, but Morris clearly has a strong viewpoint about it for whatever reason. It wouldn’t keep me from drafting him per se’, but I would have to factor in his odd thinking in the matter when I evaluated him for a team. He will have to be willing to accept whatever role a coaching staff has for him, whether he likes it or not….and if he can’t do that, then he has a problem right off the get go.
Before discussing his basketball pros and cons from a skill standpoint, I do want to mention this about Marcus Morris: The kid has a certain swagger and confidence in himself that is unmistakeable. He is the most vocal player on the court that I have seen this year on tape so far, and really seems to be very “chirpy” on the floor. I don’t know that all of his verbal stuff is necessarily all good, but it is noticeable even on tape. He is an enthusiastic teammate, and might be one of the bigger trash talkers I’ve seen on the college level. Again, not necessarily good or bad, but just be aware.
No doubt, Marcus Morris is the highest skilled back to the basket player I think in this years draft, at least among the players I am going to be able to profile. He is already smooth with his back to the basket, being able to make moves and countermoves, reading the defense well and showing a smorgasboard of skills with his back to the rim. He is highly efficient with either hand, and has NBA ready footwork from day 1. In someways, not being a super uber athlete has helped him in this regard, as he has had to become very technically efficient in order to be able to counter his lack of explosiveness and especially length inside.
He can turn to either shoulder, and has the step thru/up and under moves, the turnarounds, the jump hooks, and the face up/drive game going to either direction. He is well taught and highly effective in getting angles on his man before he catches the ball, instead of waiting until the catch to start playing offense like most young players do. He uses his lower body well to pin his defender, and he reads the defense well and therefore normally makes the proper move for the situation. He uses the shot fake well, has good hands, and can finish with contact. He plays with power, which is a really good sign for a young post player.
He is a power player who will need to get angles and play smart at the next level, because he lacks the size and length to jump up over bigger longer defenders. I think he might struggle at times against bigger, rangy guys, but against people his own size or smaller he will be a tough post cover I think. His fadeaway jumper I think will end up being his best NBA move in time.
As a perimeter guy, he is effective as well. I think he will be able to beat* slower guys off the dribble, as long as he only makes 1 or 2 dribble moves. He will be a nice player I think in the mid or high post if a team chooses to put him there, or perhaps in the short corners….but I don’t see him (regardless of what Marcus himself may believe) as a true long term wing player consistently playing at or near the 3 point line. To me that makes his true position what I would call a “flex 4″….a player who plays the 4 defensively that on offense you move all over depending on the matchup and who else you have in the game with him, and what plays or system you are using. To me if you are creative, Marcus can give you alot of nice offensive variety, and make matching up with him very difficult for opposing teams. I don’t see him as a good enough passer, shooter, or creator to play the wing consistently, but on a possession by possession basis I think he can do that for you as time goes by. He isn’t big enough to play inside 100% of the time, nor can he play outside 100% of the time either….to use him best I think you have to move him around. I think in time he will be a good enough post player that teams have to double team when he gets going.
Morris is a willing passer if he is doubled inside, buthe lacks creativity and vision. Keep in mind that the Kansas system is very structured and lacks creativity inherently of course, but Morris isn’t a guy who is going to drive and dish to others. He will make the extra pass though, and he won’t take tough/bad shots on the perimeter….basically because he isn’t good enough out there to get a bad shot off! He is a nice feeder of the ball from the high post to the low block, which is something many teams struggle with. You will be able to play some high post basketball with Morris if you so choose.
Defensively I think he is a “4″, but he is going to be in trouble at either position you put him at. Bigger post up threats will simply shoot over him, and wings with any ballhandling ability at all will be able to drive around him. He is “versatile” offensively, but I think he is your classic “tweener” defensively. Still, I think his strength and skill set means he can guard most back up power forwards in the league, as long as they aren’t offensive specialists who can abuse him. Against starting level players I think you’ll have to double his man to help him out in the post.
Morris isn’t without defensive strengths though. He talks well I think, and he was a good and willing helper in the college game. As he learns what his own limitations are, I think he will be a guy who is willing to stick his nose in there and take charges. That will be important because he won’t be a shot blocker for you, as he simply lacks the athleticism to do that on a regular basis at this level.
The big giant elephant in the room about Morris is that he doesn’t rebound well at all. Those who have ready my stuff thru the years know that I try and look at guys who “get in the air first” as a future indicator of success. Well, Morris doesn’t get in the air sometimes at all. He is an old school block out/rebound preventer type of player….he will some of the time block out his opponent, but rarely does he track the ball in the air and then follow to get it. He never leaps in the air and snags one out of his area, and he doesn’t get those tough boards you have to get in big spots. He doesn’t aggressively go get the ball, instead as a wanna be perimeter guy you see him sneak out some trying to run to the other end quickly. That is fixable, but what isn’t fixable with coaching and training is his lack of length, instincts, and the lack of “quick twitch” jumping ability that he doesn’t possess….he can jump plenty high, he just is way too slow getting in the air. Add to that a lack of “want to”, and you have a pretty weak rebounding prospect for the NBA level.
So what do you have in Marcus Morris?
In my view you have a long term offensive specialist back up “flex 4″, that will have a long career as a scorer off the bench for you in situational basketball. His lack of defensive ability and especially his lack of rebounding means to me that he will never be a starter on anything but a very weak team….but he could be a flexible piece off the bench in a regular role for a good team, IF he is willing to accept that type of role. If he isn’t (and I have some doubt about that until he reaches his mid to late 20′s) then he will be a guy I think he might bounce around the league a bit.
I think he fits best on a halfcourt team who plays sagging type of defense, with a creative coaching staff and a top notch rebounder playing beside him to cover up his flaws.* He’d be a great fit for Portland at #21 (playing next to Marcus Camby) for example as a backup to LaMarcus Aldridge. Washington at #18 makes some sense to me long term as well.* Of course, he will be selected well before that……though when you really break it down there are many teams that really don’t need his exact skill set. I can see Marcus falling a bit more than you might think. Possibly the Bucks at #10 would be a nice landing spot. If he falls past them, I can see him free falling a bit.
Even though I think there is a decent chance he might be there at #15 when the Pacers select (despite all of the mock drafts saying otherwise), I don’t believe Larry Bird will select him. Generally, I think the Pacers value guys in this regime who have “positional” purity…..we haven’t seen Bird acquire multi positional guys much lately, he either gets pure power post players, pure wings, or point guards. Tweeners don’t seem to fit his scouting eye that well.
If Morris falls to #15, I’d expect the Pacers to possibly move down slightly, acquire another asset, and let someone else move up to get him. I don’t see him in a Pacers uniform. Would I take him and keep him if I were in charge? No, I trade down as well….I don’t see him as a particularly good fit with our current personnel long term. I’d pass and not look back.
I think the comparables with Marcus Morris are easier than most others will be:
Current NBA comparable: Slightly worse version of Al Harrington
Re: Tbird 2011 NBA draft analysis #5: Marcus Morris
I think Al Harrington is a good comparison, maybe Shareef Abdur-Raheem when he was on the down side of things. I do agree that he isn't the type of player we need on our team at the moment. Markieff on the other hand is a legitimate PF who could play spot minutes at center. He easily could fill Josh's role especially since he has some offensive skill, which Josh completely lacks.
Last edited by LA_Confidential; 06-05-2011 at 02:20 AM.
Reason: Punctuation error. Don't judge me! lol
Re: Tbird 2011 NBA draft analysis #5: Marcus Morris
Personally I would be thrilled if Marcus fell this far and I think Bird would take him over the other options at pf. I say this because I think Bird likes savvy offensive minded players and I think Morris fits the bill as one of those guys.
Looking back on it I don't know if Bird has drafted one defensive minded player in the first round. Rush is probably the closest guy but he was projected to be more of a offensive fix at sg than the defensive wing that he has become.
I think overall he goes well before our pick so its a moot point.
Re: Tbird 2011 NBA draft analysis #5: Marcus Morris
These guys who are more PF than SF, but want to be seen as SFs (Derrick Williams, Marcus Morris) need to guard Lebron, Carmelo, or even Danny Granger for about 5 mins in a pick up game. Then we can ask them what position they think they are, after that?