Monte Morris Has Come As Advertised

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Monté Morris immediately noticed that the Minnesota Timberwolves had good team chemistry. “Everybody got handshakes together. I see they joking, smiling,” Morris told The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski after the Wolves traded for him. “Somebody dunk on somebody, they pointing. That’s just fun seeing it. Who don’t want to be a part of something like that?”

Seventeen games later, it appears Morris is fully part of Minnesota’s comradery and is cementing his role on the Wolves bench. Morris has been proving to be a great shooter from a distance and the calming presence that the Timberwolves sought at the trade deadline. He also provides consistent defense to support Minnesota’s defensive identity.

Offensively, Morris has been exactly what the Timberwolves have been searching for all season. Morris’ shooting has improved drastically as he has gotten comfortable in Minnesota. He’s shooting a career-high 40.5% from three; Morris has benefited from being a tertiary part of Minnesota’s offense.

In his role, Morris typically brings the ball up court and initiates the offense. He runs the initial pick-and-roll or waits for an off-ball screen to free up Anthony Edwards. After this initial action, Morris has found great success rotating to the left corner or staying above the break around the three-point line.

As Edwards runs the second action of the play, the Wolves often put Morris’ defender in conflict. They must decide whether to help on Edwards or stick to Morris. Below is an example of Morris’ role. He brings the ball up and waits for Edwards to break off the screen. Edwards finishes the play with a strong finish. However, the Utah Jazz left Morris and Kyle Anderson wide open on the drive.

Morris has made defenders pay when they leave him. Morris is shooting 55.6% from the left corner three and 38.5% on above-the-break threes over his last 15 games. Over the last 25 games, Morris is also shooting 40.3% of his total shots as either open(closest defender is 4-6 feet) or wide open(closest defender is +6ft). Meaning nearly two out of every five shots, a defender isn’t within four feet; Morris also shoots 47.8% on those open/wide-open shots. Morris has been a knockdown three-point shooter, and it has meaningfully improved Minnesota’s offense. The clip below shows just how easy some of these threes are. Klay Thompson sags off too far to help with Edwards, leaving Morris wide open for three.

Morris has improved the offense with his shooting, ball security, and offensive intelligence. He has become adept at running the first action of the offense and understands the flow that Chris Finch prioritizes. Having a point guard who can step in for Mike Conley and provide the same stability and unselfishness has revitalized the second unit.

As a result, Morris has an overall offensive rating of 114.6 since arriving in Minnesota, along with a superhuman 11.25 assist-to-turnover ratio. To put that into perspective, Morris has an assist percentage (percent of a player’s possessions that end with them getting an assist) of 33.3%, meaning one-third of his possessions he gets an assist on. Meanwhile, his turnover percentage is 3.0%. That means that in 100 possessions, Morris would only turn the ball over three times. That’s truly incredible, considering Mike Conley’s turnover percentage is 7.2%.

Defensively, Morris has also been a Swiss Army knife, posting a 105.9 defensive rating since the trade. Interestingly, his defensive metrics over the last 15 games could show he is struggling. He allows opponents to shoot 42.4% from the field and 39.1% from three. But that may be because Morris is newer to the team and not quite gelling in with Minnesota’s rotations and drop scheme.

Morris also occasionally plays small forward in a three point guard lineup Finch has been toying with. He matches up with a forward in 28.2 of his defensive opportunities. Morris is 6’2”, so it could be assumed that the defensive shooting percentages are higher than expected.

However, that isn’t the case. Morris is holding opposing forwards to shoot 39.5% from the field and just 18.8% from three. Opponents are likely shooting fairly well against him because he’s learning the defensive scheme. Below is a clip of Morris showing his ability to man up against bigger defenders on the drive.

Morris has been exactly what the Wolves needed off the bench. He has provided spacing and shooting for the second unit and another deadly option for Edwards to kick out to on his drives. Additionally, Morris has been a floor general in setting up the offense when Conley is on the bench. Defensively, Morris has some room to improve but is by no means a lousy defender. Morris has proven he can fit in with the Wolves culture.

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