Timberwolves

Monte Morris Immediately Became A Crucial Part Of Minnesota's Rotation

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Monté Morris has had the same pinned tweet on his account since Oct. 19, 2019. It explains who he is almost perfectly. “Been slept on my whole life,” it reads. “It’s made me who I am today. Thank you, people.” Morris concludes his tweet with a winking face. We can interpret the emoji in two ways. Either it’s a wink to his believers or a jab at his doubters. It might be both. Regardless, Morris has become the backup point guard they’ve needed in his short time with Minnesota.

Morris has had to move cities three times since July 6, 2022. Morris was the central player in the Denver Nuggets’ July 6 trade for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a key rotational player on their championship run. One year later, the Washington Wizards traded Morris to the Detroit Pistons in a salary dump. Five months later, Detroit included Morris in a multi-player deal that brought him to Minnesota. The Wolves hoped he could improve their second unit.

Tim Connelly drafted Morris when he was Denver’s GM. Morris had most of his success as a reserve point guard with the Nuggets, making starts in relief of Jamal Murray. During that time, he distinguished himself as a key contributor with his ball security and ability to hit threes. Morris shot 49.1% from the left corner three and 39.5% above the break three in 2021-22, his last season in Denver. Morris was a valuable shooter who was able to play within the offense. 93% of his three-point baskets came off of assists that season.

But Morris had a disappointing season with the Wizards, then spent the first half of 2023-24 injured on the Pistons bench. While Morris statistically had his best offensive season in Washington, posting a career-high offensive rating of 117.4, he also posted his career-worst defensive rating of 117.3. This gives Morris an overall plus-minus of 0.1 on a 35-47 wizards team. Suggesting that despite posting a career-high in rebounds (3.5) and assists (5.3), the lack of talent around him prevented Morris from having any sizeable impact on winning.

In six games with Detroit this season, Morris struggled with his shot, making 18.2% of his three-point attempts and playing 11.4 minutes per game, his lowest total since his rookie season.

However, Morris has adapted well in Minnesota, providing energy and consistency off the bench. Morris’s shot has not been falling; he’s only shooting 39.40% from the field and 25.9% from three. But he’s getting his legs back after missing all but six games with a right quad injury before Detroit traded him to the Wolves. Morris usually has been an above-average three-point shooter, averaging 38.8% for his career. Still, Morris has a 116.0 offensive rating with Minnesota, good for third-best on the team and 1.0 higher than Mike Conley‘s.

Having that high of an offensive rating despite his shooting woes is a tribute to Morris’ floor vision, evidenced by his 16-1 turnover ratio in six games. While that number is a small sample size, we can assume that as his turnover ratio falls closer to his 22-2023 season average of 5.43. That’s an excellent sign for the Wolves. He has been able to step when Conley’s not playing and maintain Conley’s ability to take care of the basketball (Conley has a 5.75 assist-to-TO ratio).

Morris’ game seems to dovetail with Minnesota’s offense. He seems to understand the importance of slowing the offense down and assisting the Wolves in getting set. Morris mirrors Conley in the offense. They have nearly identical pace of play ratings, with Morris only averaging 0.51 more possessions during a 48-minute game. That reflects Morris’ ability to jump into Minnesota’s offense and maintain Conley’s slow, methodical, and calming presence.

But Morris’ defense might be most encouraging during this six-game stretch. Morris is posting the second-best defensive rating of his career (106.8). If he maintained that for the remainder of the season, Morris would have Minnesota’s sixth-best defensive rating. Morris has had six steals and two blocks in a Wolves uniform. He’s also contesting shots effectively, allowing opponents to shoot only 25.0% against him.

Morris has only played six games in Minnesota but exceeded expectations. His shot should come around, and some of his metrics may regress with more playing time. Regardless, Morris has stabilized a key rotation spot. If he’s not careful, people will stop sleeping on him. He may have to update his pinned tweet.

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Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

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