The last time I wrote about Marcus Morris, my message was simple. Morris has a specific skillset and within the construct of the team, we should judge him on how well he does this specific skill-set. At that time, Morris was still getting himself back in shape after a troublesome knee sidelined him for much of the first half of the season, but the outline of a player who could contribute more than the consensus believed was starting to form.
A little over a month later, the Celtics were in Portland in a game that without Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis looked like a lost cause. Except the Celtics were in it, and with 1:10 left in the game they held a two-point lead and a chance to potentially ice the game. The shot clock was winding down, Horford had his back to the basket with no options, but right as the possession looked lost, Horford flung the ball back to the left corner to Marcus Morris. Morris initially bobbled the pass, but gathered, checked the clock, and started down Moe Harkless. The crowd is going crazy, the benches are on there feet, but despite all the noise, Morris did what Morris has always done. Shoot.
Brad Stevens on Marcus Morris: “Marcus is a hard guy to guard at the 3 because of his size, and also at the 4 because he spreads the floor so much. He’s in a good groove right now.”— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 9, 2018
Since the all-star break, Morris has averaged 16.2ppg, 5.8rpg, and has shot 45.7 FG%, 40.8 3P%, and 75 FT%. Some of the warts are still around. He doesn't get to the free throw line much which causes his TS% to lag behind (56.4%) and despite my reservations about the assist stat in general, he’s not exactly Magic Johnson either (1.2apg). But Morris is different and it has very little to do about changing his game, as it is about Boston changing how they use him.
Without Irving, Morris has been one of Boston’s most consistent offensive threats and because of that he has been the only Celtics player since the all-star break to average more than 30mpg. Morris’ role has changed from 2nd unit to scorer to top offensive option and with that comes a difference in how he gets his shots. Since the break, Morris leads the team in catch and shoot points (6.3) and it makes up 38.8% of his looks. He also leads the team in overall catch and shoot attempts (5.3) and those make up about 39% of his overall attempts. Overall, 64% of Morris’ attempts have come from either the paint, short-mid range, or from three. Morris has gone from free-lancing within a second unit that just needed points period to the structure of playing with the first unit. Instead of spending a majority of his time facing up at the elbow, more of his attempts come off of off-ball action like this:
Morris still gets his opportunities to score within isolation plays, but they come organically within the team offense:
If Brad Stevens and his staff have proven anything, it’s the undeniable ability to pinpoint a players strengths and weaknesses and put him in positions where he can really harp on his strengths. It’s never about changing the identity of a veteran player as much as its about using that identity to better serve the team. As good health and opportunity attach themselves to Morris, production worthy enough to be considered a top option on a playoff team has come with it. Maybe this is just a blimp in an up and down season or maybe it’s a 28yr old finally finding his perfect balance in a world that has already tried to define him as “the worse twin.” Either way, Marcus Morris is balling out of his mind, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Celtics.