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In Defense of Marcus Morris

Why has the veteran drawn the short stick with the fanbase?

NBA: Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a simple guy. When I go out, I like to eat steak. Specifically, medium-well with mash potatoes and asparagus. Like I said, simple guy. Going to restaurants used to be hard for me because I have a family that LOVES seafood and outside of the occasional salmon sashimi, I don’t venture too far. But when I go to a seafood place I don’t expect a great steak. Why? Because that’s not what they do. They’re a seafood place! You don’t go to a seafood place expecting a premium porterhouse.

This brings us to Marcus Morris. The veteran wing has had a rough season missing all of training camp due to a trial, then missing all of preseason and about a quarter of the season with a troublesome knee. However, while returning from injury, Morris has looked horrible at times and was largely a negative on the court. His style is brash and definitive. If he’s open, he’s shooting and if he’s not open, well...

As you can imagine, the fanbase that has watched the Celtics play a Warriors-style offense filled with ball movement, lots of 3’s, and unselfish play hasn’t been a fan of his game. If the Celtics are seafood spot, Morris is the random skillet steak that no one orders. But here’s what Brad Stevens said about him right before he was about to make his re-debut against the Wizards:

“We’re going to be a better team with Marcus Morris, there’s no question about it. We just have to make sure that he’s fully healthy and gets to a point where he can play increased minutes as we move forward.”

And surprise, surprise, since Morris has returned from his knee injury on Christmas, he has averaged 11.5ppg, 5.1rpg, and is shooting 36.4% from three on 4.2 attempts. The team also has a 5.2 net rating on the court while he’s on the court with Morris spending 33% of his possessions with either Irving or Horford on the court. What does that mean? He’s a solid second unit scorer that has been part of lineups that have a positive net outcome.

That doesn’t mean things couldn’t be better, Morris is in the 93rd percentile in long-mid range attempts via Cleaning The Glass, yet only shoots them at 39%. Meanwhile, he’s in the 39th percentile on three-point attempts, but averages 36% from beyond the arc which is right at the league average mark. The good news? Morris has minimized his attempts slightly (9.2 in last 15 games), 42% of those shots are three pointers, and 59% of all his shots are classified as open or wide open during the span.

But let’s be real, there’s no way his usage rate should be in the 86th percentile, and the ball could move a little better. But remember, Morris isn’t seafood. The veteran came to this team as a guy who would be asked to score for our second unit, not to create or run the offense, but provide the team a much-needed scoring punch. The shot selection can be improved, but the best way to limit that is to continue the recent trend of higher off-ball shooting attempts (24% of attempts are spot-ups) and getting him more open looks.

One name that comes up for this situation is Tyreke Evans who has already been linked to the Boston and has put the league on notice with his 3-level scoring. Limiting the amount of difficulty for role players by having elite ball-handlers like Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford do the work while other players to reap the benefits of open and efficient looks has been the staple of the Celtics’ offense. Evans fits that bill:

Outside of that, Morris has mostly been exactly what was expected when the team acquired him. He may stick out like steak at a seafood restaurant, but understanding that it’s steak at a seafood restaurant is the first step in properly evaluating how his season has been. You don’t have to love “Iso Mook,” but don’t hate him for being who he is. That’s all you can ask for in this league.

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