Early on this season, most of the conversation about the Celtics started and ended with the superstars. The highlights showed Jayson Tatum continuing to shine, and the concerns were all based around Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward getting back into their groove again. With all of this talk, Boston has benefitted from the play of an unsung hero throughout these first seven games.
That is Marcus Morris.
Seven games into the season Marcus Morris has been tearing up the stat sheet. He is averaging 14.4 points per game (third on the team) while shooting 49.3% from the field. That shooting percentage is first on the Celtics with players averaging more than five attempts per game. Morris is also working the glass—he is second on the team in rebounding, averaging 7.1 boards per contest. While this may not be sustainable over the course of 82 games, Morris has been a vital offensive weapon for the Celtics in this early stretch.
The part of his offensive game that has stood out is his three-point shooting. Morris is shooting 48.4% from three on 4.4 attempts per game. That percentage leads all Celtics from behind the arc. To put in context of how remarkable these numbers are Morris’s career three-point percentage is 35.9% on 3.7 attempts per game.
Eventually, these numbers will regress closer to the mean, but it is worth noting that he has been getting the open looks that should normally result in a made shot. Either as a result of good ball movement or big men not leaving the paint to guard him around the arc, Morris is getting the shots that he wants and cashing in. If this trend continues, these numbers may come down, but only a little bit with Morris having an impressive stroke for a 6’9” forward.
This is a perfect example of Patrick Patterson just not wanting to come out to guard Morris outside of the paint. It even looks to take Morris by surprise that Patterson does not come out to defend, so he takes the three and connects. If he keeps this up, he’ll be able to keep punishing bigger forwards that feel uncomfortable out near the arc.
Marcus Morris still has the confidence to take a three-point shot after a side step dribble to create space. As we see the Kyle Lowry biting on the pump fake, Morris has the lane in front of him to attack the defender in the paint. Instead, he adjusts over into the shot he has the poise to take in that moment.
The one part of Morris’s game that can be improved on is his mid-range shooting. As Celtics fans have come to know from Morris, he loves his pull-up over the defender shot from the 15-20 foot range. He may love it, but Brad Stevens and the advanced analytics guys most definitely do not. Plus, his stats in this category rate the lowest as he is only shooting 6 of 17 from mid-range this season.
Morris is a heat-check type of player. When he is feeling it, he pulls the trigger. He’s done this throughout his career. Think back to Game 3 in the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Sixers, where Morris was iso’d out, about to pull the trigger on a long two before Stevens calls a time out before he can take the shot. It may have been fodder for Celtics Twitter at the time, but it perfectly sums up Marcus Morris’s attitude on the court. He knows (or thinks) he can score over anybody.
With this mentality, it is crucial that Morris understands when to test the mid-range and when to look elsewhere when someone else has a better shot. As he is not known for his passing, he needs to still always be aware at others who may have a better shot than he does.
Here, Morris forces a shot much earlier than necessary, with the shot clock still at 11 seconds and the second quarter game clock winding down. So far this season, he’s hit on these heat-check chances. If Morris cools off, he may have to resort to more consistent two-point attempts.
If Morris can stay efficient, he will jump to another level on offense. This is what he can work on moving forward. He has the chance at a pull-up jumper over a smaller defender, but instead, he chooses to use a swing through baseline drive for a much easier layup. Every instance will not be as easy as this specific clip seems to be, but the fact of the matter is that this shot is a much more efficient shot than a step back two-point jumper.
Marcus Morris has put up insane numbers to this point in the season. While it may be only a matter of time before he drops off this pace, there are factors to suggest that this success could still continue at a high rate. The good number of open threes he has seen should continue to be there for Morris as a good amount of big men do not know how to defend outside of the paint.
The other factor to sustaining this success comes from shot selection. Morris should make it a goal to continue to drive in for layups instead of taking long, contested two-point shots. This makes for much more efficient offense long-term.
The stars on the team may get the headlines, but Marcus Morris has started the season off red-hot. If he can continue close to this level, it will be only a matter of time until he is mentioned on a daily basis.