Season So Far Recap/Notes: All Star Break. Greater Morris.
Greater Morris: Coming into the season I was pretty high on Marcus. And while in some ways, he has not met all those expectations, (most notably with his outside shooting) in many ways he has exceeded them. Morris is pretty much tied with KCP for 3rd best player on the team (after a big gap behind Andre and Reggie) and that is actually fairly remarkable given that the Pistons gained him for a freaking 2nd round pick. Stop a second and think about that. The Pistons gave up a 2020 2nd round pick, and in return got a guy who is currently playing 36 minutes per game and in a truly vital role, and all of this and he is being paid just 5 million per year until the summer of 2019(!) which, just for reference, is 1 million less than the Pistons are paying Aron Baynes. That is absurd. (they also got Reggie Bullock obviously but more on him later.)
The comparison of Marcus Morris and KCP is an interesting one as well, (but one for another time) but it is a perfect example of how stats do not tell the full story. Even though KCP scores (very slightly) more points on (very slightly) better efficiency, KCP takes mostly easier shots created by others within the offense, and almost never creates for anyone else. While Marcus' shots are largely in isolation and of the very difficult variety, and he also has shown some real playmaking abilities. (Once again, this is not the time or place for a KCP/Morris argument. Just something to keep in mind there.)
Marcus has, in many ways, been a godsend for the Pistons. He filled a position of rather desperate need for the Pistons, as following the sacrificing of Josh Smith the Pistons had Kyle Singler, Caron Butler, and Tayshaun Prince all start at the small forward position. Another need the Pistons had was someone who could score in isolation, and create some offense that is not as a direct result of a Jackson/Drummond PnR. And that is exactly what Morris brings to the Pistons offense. The "Go get em Marcus" strategy has probably been the Pistons best and most consistent source of offense for the Pistons beyond the Jackson/Drummond PnR. He occasionally has poor nights shooting and he occasionally has very good nights, but he generally can be counted on to get into double digits on a very difficult diet of shots on decent efficiency. He has also occasionally shows some real flashes of playmaking especially out of the pick and roll. And while he makes close to as many poor passes as he does good ones, he should almost be thought of as a rookie as far as his ball handling goes. He has already ran more pick and rolls this season than in his entire career before it. This is actually one of the more intriguing things about Marcus Morris (to me at least) because he really has shown some real chops as a ball handler and creator. And if Morris could take some of that potential and make it something more, he could suddenly become a much more valuable part of the team. Because as he is currently, he is a very nice piece, but ideally the Pistons will find a true 3rd scoring option, and Marcus will become a nice piece who can do some things in the right matchups and as a bail out late in the shot clock. But if he could become a real playmaker then he actually could become the 3rd scoring option. Which between that and what Stanley Johnson should become, Morris and Johnson could become a killer duo of playmaking forwards. But that is for the future, for now hopefully SVG lets him try and spread his wings a bit more as a playmaker to see what he really is capable of.
The other intriguing thing of Marcus to me has been his defense. I can not decide exactly how good a defender Marcus is because he very rarely makes spectacular plays that you will see KCP, Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson, and even occasionally Reggie Jackson, seem to make with regularity where it is just clear that they are gifted defenders. And yet, despite that, Marcus has consistently guarded the opposing teams best wing scorers, and consistently done a really solid job of it. He is long, strong, and physical, and he generally uses those gifts very well. Outside of the occasional mental gaff (getting lost on a screen generally) his defense is hugely solid. I still don't know that I would say he is any sort of elite defender, but he is certainly very good. And that also is something that was of dire need for the Pistons, and was probably my biggest concern coming into the season for the Pistons. Marcus Morris has been a godsend for the Pistons on both ends of the floor, I don't know what his role for the Pistons will be long term but he will have one, because he is a very solid two way player.
Biggest Answer? His attitude. Coming into the season, Suns fans would have had you believe that Marcus was a locker room cancer, who did not play all that hard, didn't pass to anyone other than his brother, and chucked crappy shots, and his best attribute was that he was a pretty good shooter. The irony of course is that this season for the Pistons, Marcus has played good defense, taken good shots (within the offense) been a model citizen, and his biggest problem has been his shooting. But regardless, I have pretty much no fear of him becoming an issue on or off the court in the future, and that was easily my biggest worry coming into the season.
Biggest Question? What will his role be with the team going forwards? Will he stave off Stanley Johnson at the Small Forward spot? Will he shift to Power Forward to make room? Will he become a 6th man type? He is intriguing because we still do not really know exactly what he is capable of, he in theory should remember how to shoot at some point (a guy who is a career 35.5% 3 point shooter does not suddenly become a 30% shooter in his mid 20s out of nowhere very often) and his ability to score in isolation is really impressive. Throw in his potential as a ball handler and playmaker and there is some potential here, but even if he does not improve much at all (outside of the shooting, he has to shoot at least a little bit better holy crap) he is a really solid 2 way player that the Pistons can have on the cheap for the foreseeable future, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up falling.
What do you think? What will Marcus Morris' longterm role with the team be? Let me know! We all get smarter!