Season Recap/Notes: Greater Morris.

In case you missed it, here is Tobias Harris' post.(and you can follow the chain to the other previous ones from there.)

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Follow along with the stats on basketball reference.Any stats not readily availible there will be linked to or otherwise stated.

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The Good:

The biggest and most obvious good is that Marcus was actually a quality starting forward. (I say forward instead of just SF because once Tobias arrived they were both just playing forward as opposed to one really being the 4 or the 3.) This was good because the forward spot had been a total shit show. Last season the Pistons had, quite possibly, the weakest rotation of forwards in the NBA. (remember when Kyle Singler became the starter and everyone was like "wow such good") And their best forward was really a center (Greg Monroe) who left in the offseason. At the time the trade for Marcus (more on this later lol) the Pistons forwards were: Stanley Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, and Anthony Tolliver. A rookie, a journeyman, and Ilyasova. They needed someone who could give them solid minutes, and a lot of them. Then the absolute freaking heist trade for Marcus happened, and the Pistons figured they had their guy. He set career highs in pretty much everything this season, although some of it was more to do with simply playing more, like a lot more. In his previous 3 seasons he had played 25.2, 22, and 19.8 minutes per game. This season he played 35.7. Literally 10 more per game this his previous career high, which amounted to over 800 more total minutes than ever before. So even though his per 36s numbers did not actually that unanimously increase, considering that he generally stayed steady with a MUCH larger role is impressive in itself. From the outset of the season he was thrust into the nominal 3rd option behind Reggie and Andre, being the guy who was dumped the ball most often whenever the offense broke down or just needed a change of pace from the PnR. Early in the season he did struggle a bit, but certainly did an admirable job, taking consistently hard shots and converting them at a rate just high enough that it still helped the team. His outside shooting was concerning for most of the season, but once afforded a little bit more space following the arrival of Tobias he went on a freaking tear, shooting 44% from 3 after the all star break. Also, a small joy of Marcus Morris, dude was a master on the fast break. He is not the sort of blindingly fast that you expect to be good on the break, but he just always made the right decisions. I'm not sure that I can remember a single time this season where he was the ball handler of a fast break where he did not make the right play. (Although given that his previous two teams were Houston and Phoenix, two teams that love to run, this should not have surprised me as much as it did.

He also showed some promise as a #1 option for small stretches, when SVG used him as the lone starter with the bench mob. This generally worked much better than when SVG did the same with KCP. (the bench mob+KCP should have been shelved pretty quickly really, and was one of the more confusing things SVG did this season but I digress.) Morris showed real ability to not just run isolations in the midrange, but also was able to run either end of the pick and roll. As the screener he may not be a fearsome leaper, but he sets solid screens and has good and quick hands to be able to catch and finish in traffic, and as the ball handler he occasionally made mental mistakes, but also showed some real chops throwing good and accurate passes as well a good feel for when to pull up for jumpers or go to the hoop. (I'm going to touch on his passing more later.) He is not exactly ideal as the lead option, but for short stretches with a bench mob badly needing creation, he was often the only thing propping it up.

His defense may have been the best and biggest surprise however. He may not (or more correctly, is not) be an elite defender, but he was regularly given the job of guarding the opposing teams best or second best offensive player (depending on if the 1st option on the other team was too big for KCP or not) and he often did a very respectable job, and even occasionally a very good one. Everyone remembers Paul George's 4th quarter explosion that lead to a small altercation between Morris and George, but it should be noted that for like 11 quarters before that, Morris absolutely had George's number. I still don't know for sure what about Morris made him so effective on defense, but I ended up going with he has a good ability to play with physicality while not fouling a ton.

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The Bad:

This is not really a criticism, but Marcus was clearly in over his head a bit before Tobias arrived. Once again, this is hardly a criticism because I don't think that anyone thought he was supposed to be able to be hugely effective in the role he was put into. And he did a decent job. But it should still be noted, that before the arrival of Tobias, Morris was pretty inefficient with his scoring.

Even though it was often good, his defense was certainly not world beating. And occasionally he was exposed for having a pretty hard ceiling on that end, whether it be his total inability to keep LeBron out of the paint in the playoffs, or Paul George's explosion in that 4th quarter, he was shown to not really be the sort of all around prime-time defender who can lock down opposing stars. Once again, this is hardly a criticism because no one thought he would be as good on defense as he was, and in theory he won't have to take on that defensive role in the long run. But still, it should be noted.

Really what this comes down to is that, Marcus is truly a jack of all trades, master of none. There is no area of his game that is a gaping hole, but there is also nothing that he is really dominant at. The closest he is to dominant is going iso in certain matchups. But once again, that is certain matchups. Once again, this is not a big criticism because in no universe is Morris supposed to become some sort of star for the team. But he was regularly shown to have pretty clear limitations.

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Biggest Answer?

He is absolutely capable of fitting in. The reputation he had upon arrival was that of a hot-headed low IQ player who chucked a lot of bad shots and didn't really play defense, but was a pretty solid shooter. In the end that could not have been further from the truth. He was, by any measure, an awesome teammate who played his tail off on both ends, the hard/kind of bad shots he took were almost always ones that were within the offense, and when he was not asked to take those shots he shot 3s and moved the ball and went hard on defense. Basically he walked the line between using his skills as an isolation scorer/chucker, and also being just another cog in the team. Throw in the fact that his attitude was never an issue, he only even got a couple techs the whole season, and he dispelled pretty much all of the questions that faced him coming into the year.

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Biggest Question?

As a player, the biggest question is if his passing can continue to improve or not. Once again, he showed some real chops as a ball handler and facilitator this season, especially out of the pick and roll. He did make mistakes, but that should actually have been expected. This season he ran more pick and rolls as the ball handler than he had in the rest of his career combined, so it was a largely brand new skill for him. If he can clean up some of the mistakes he looks like he could be a really excellent passer. Like I can't stress this enough, he often made passes and plays that were not just normal basketball plays. They were really heady, high IQ plays that not everyone can see or make. If he makes no improvements then that's fine, he's a really good player as is. But his passing seems (to me at least) to be the best way for him to really try and elevate his game further. The other question, which has nothing to do with him as a player really, is where he fits long term. With Stanley Johnson only getting better (hopefully) and SVG saying that he wants some sort of bigger/more traditional PF (as a starter or backup) Morris might get bumped to the bench/generally just see his minutes cut a lot.

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Can we talk about that trade a moment?

Lol yes. Lets talk about it. I understand that it was unique circumstances because the Suns were not looking for a good/fair trade, they were just trying to dump some salary. But holy crap what a steal. The Pistons got Morris (and Reggie Bullock) for a single 2nd round pick. And on top of how good a player Morris is, he is on an absolute steal of a contract. For reference, the Pistons are paying Josh Smith more than they are paying Marcus Morris. Brilliant work by the Pistons front office to pull the trigger on that move. Throw in the fact that Reggie Bullock showed some promise of actually being a serviceable rotation guy towards the end of the year, and it is one of the more lopsided "small" trades I can think of. (obviously something like the Harden trade is more franchise changing bad.) Essentially the way to look at it, is that the Pistons managed to pick a core player with a 2nd round pick, and get to sign him to a slightly longer below market value contract. (and once again, throw in Reggie Bullock who might be alright as well.)

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The verdict for this year and beyond?

I like where his passing is going, but the reality is that he probably will not improve much from here. He is 26 and been around for a while (the oldest of the Pistons "core" guys lol) so he will probably not grow much from here. My main hope for him is that the Pistons manage to get to true contention with him on this contract. (4 years seems like a long time, but Andre will be 26 when Morris' contract is up) I don't know for sure what his role will be, and because of his contract he would likely be an enticing piece of any major trade the Pistons might pull off. But I can say with certainty, that whatever his role, (even if it is as a part of a trade. Which would make me sad because I love this guys game.) he will help the Pistons a lot over the remainder of his contract. He will probably play less and ergo be less impactful in the years to come, but dude is a really solid cog and a guy who anyone would want on their team.

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What do you think? What was the best thing you saw from Marcus this season? What about the worst? Let me know! We all get smarter!

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China update: I'm having a wonderful time here in China, and being very respectful. Playing lots of basketball on dirty courts. And also converting some of the locals to Detroit sports. 

If you still want to help fund my posts while I'm chillin in China you can do that right over here. Thanks so much for the support already. Ya'll are the dopest.