Today’s NBA Draft Blog Scouting Report will take a look at Kansas’ Marcus Morris. As a member of the US Select Team this summer which practiced against the Olympic Team, Morris took advantage of the opportunity to show a new versatility in his game, as well as a consistency which seemed to only come in flashes during his first 2 years of school. Has he been able to take advantage of this momentum now that the college season has begun? Keep in mind, these are first reports and we will continue to check in on players throughout the season.
Marcus Morris, Kansas – Junior
Forward- 6’8, 225
18 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 63.2% FG, 58.5% FT
Post Skills- Morris, while not has wide or strong as his brother Markieff, still has shown some great improvement as a post player. He does a great job using his lower body to get position and to seal off his defender. Once he gets the ball, he has an impressive repertoire of moves, and rarely struggles to get a good shot off. Most impressive is his drop step into the lane for a short jumper. He does a great job using his length and body control to create enough separation to get a clear look at the basket. He has a decent touch around the rim and can lay it in with either hand. However, he has been relying too much on these kinds of shots this season, and he will need to go back to going strong to the basket more.
Footwork- Morris’ footwork is one of his biggest improvements from last season. His movements, especially in the post, have become much more fluid and quick. He has shown the ability to make moves in either direction and he keeps his balance well when he is hit. While he has improved, there is still room to get better. The biggest issue I see when moving his feet is a tendency to be indecisive at times, which lead to too many excess movements. This is something he dealt with in spurts last season, and I would look for him to correct it as the season goes on.
Ballhandling/Hands/Penetration- Morris also came back this summer with more confident ballhandling skills, both on the perimeter and in the post. Last year, he was prone to dribbling too far from his body which made him an easy mark for turnovers or busted plays. He is playing more out on the perimeter than he has in his previous 2 years, and while there is still some awkwardness to his moves, he has developed a good first step to help him get by his defender.
Perimeter Shooting- Morris has become a reliable mid-range shooter, and has even shown the ability to knock down the 3, though he isn’t usually guarded closely that far out. If he can keep knocking down the open jumpers, the tighter defense should then allow him to use his strength and athleticism to get to the basket. The mechanics of his shot aren’t great, as his release point varies and he likes to fade away on his shot, but right now it is working for him.
Rebounding/Passing- The downside to Morris spending more time away from the post this season, is that he isn’t always in great position to help out on the offensive boards. When he is in position, he does a great job getting up quickly after the ball and using his strength to get a shot off quickly. He has also become a much improved passer, especially hitting his teammates on the perimeter out of the high post. In the low post, his reaction time against double teams isn’t great, so he needs to work on identifying the double quicker and realizing where is perimeter outlets will be.
Free Throw Shooting – Morris really needs to improve his free throw shooting to become as big a threat as he can be. He doesn’t get to the line that often, so he needs to make them count. He has been able to improve his jumper, there is no reason he can’t become a 75% free throw shooter.
Post Defense- Morris’ post defense has two extremes. On the one hand, he does a great job using his body to keep players from getting good position on the blocks. Where he has a problem is when the offensive player does get the ball in good position – Morris doesn’t move his feet as well on the defensive end and instead prefers to try and strip the ball or go for the block. He does a good job as a help defender when he is defending down low, rotating over quickly and stopping penetration.
Perimeter Defense- Morris is still learning to guard the perimeter and he will certainly need to improve his footwork, especially his lateral movement. Because he doesn’t have that great movement, he tends to leave a big cushion to the offensive player, and even with Morris’ athleticism he has a tough time closing on shooters or reacting to penetration. I expect as he spends more time guarding smaller players on the perimeter, he will learn to adjust better and improve his footwork, though he does need to watch that tendency to reach.
Rebounding/Blocking- Fundamentally, Morris is a good rebounder, boxing out well and going strong after the ball and securing it well. He uses his strong body to his advantage and can not be easily muscled out of position, and is effective at keeping balls alive that he can’t get to right away. While his numbers may not reflect as well because of his increased presence guarding on the perimeter, he can just as easily put up big rebounding numbers if he is guarding post players. One thing I would like to see him do more of is being quicker to get to the spots and read the angles better off the missed shots. While he isn’t a great shot blocker, he does use his long arms and athleticism to alter shots. I wouldn’t expect to see his shot blocking ability become much better in the future, as he isn’t that aggressive on the defensive end.
Summary & Intangibles
Athleticism - Good
BB IQ - Good
Morris is obviously highly skilled and athletic, and he has made the proper adjustments to his game over the last few years. Where I have concerns with his long-term NBA potential is trying to find a real spot for him on the floor. It’s true that he does a lot of things well, but he is not great at anything. If he can become more proficient playing out on the perimeter, then a team will have a real gem on their hands, because I don’t see him having the same success in the post at the next level. That being said, if Morris was to come out this draft, I would place him solidly in that 15-21 range in the first round – a very good athlete with a versatile game and some good potential.
Tomorrow we will take a look at a player who is intriguing to many fans and scouts alike – Temple’s Lavoy Allen. Remember, leave any comments below, follow me on Twitter – @NBADraftBlog, or feel free to email me at the link up top.