Here's what the Celtics are getting in Marcus Morris
There's mixed feelings throughout Celtics nation about the deal that sent Avery Bradley out of town in order to clear space for Gordon Hayward last Friday. While there's certainly an argument to be had on whether Danny Ainge made the right decision in choosing Bradley as the guy to move the biggest factor likely was the Celtics chances of signing him to an extension following this season, the final year in his current contract. Rather than look back yet again at what the Celtics will be losing without Avery in the starting lineup, let's take a look at the guy that they got in return - Marcus Morris.
Morris is a 27-year old swing-forward who's heading into his his 7th season in the NBA. He started 79 games for the Detroit Pistons in 2016-17, providing them with a toughness and tenacity that will certainly carry over in his role with the Celtics. As of now it looks likely that Morris has a shot to crack the C's starting lineup to start the year, playing alongside Al Horford at the 4. Let's take a look at the things that Morris will bring to the table.
Marcus has the versatility that Brad Stevens craves in his lineups. At 6'9, 235, he's suited to move between the 3 and the 4 which will allow near seamless switches between himself, Jae Crowder, and Hayward at the wings. While he's my leading candidate to start alongside Horford most nights it wouldn't surprise me if Stevens decides to go with Aron Baynes in the starting-five at times, similiar to how he rotated Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson in the lineup depending on the size of the opposition. Plus with Baynes coming from Detroit as well expect those two to already have some good chemistry as they played well together last season for the Pistons.
He can score. Morris averaged 14 ppg in his two years in Detroit, he was the 3rd leading scorer on a Pistons team that struggled to score the basketball (26th in the NBA), but things should really open up for him joining a Celtics team plush with offensive weapons. Both Hayward and Isaiah Thomas will draw a ton of attention getting open looks for their teammates on offense and this will be the first time in Morris' career that he'll be playing with a scorer as good as either one of them. He'll be able to take advantage of those opportunities with a Celtics team that thrives on outside shots, 2nd in the NBA in '16-17, as he's a solid 35.5% from three.
His contract is a bargain. The $5 million dollar price tag on Morris for this season was a big reason he was a target for the C's, as swapping it for the $8 million they would have paid Bradley this season allowed them not only to get under the cap to sign Hayward to a max deal, it also allows them to bring Guerschon Yabusele to Boston this season rather than stash him overseas for another year. With the Celtics armed with only veteran minimum contracts after signing Baynes this past weekend with their RME they might have a better shot at getting help from Yabusele in the front court this year than anyone they can sign as of now. And with Morris signed at another discount rate next year of $5.5 million that deal will save the C's a ton of money with them likely headed way into the luxury tax next offseason.
Since the deal Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy has had nothing but praise for his former player. He's been on the record saying that Morris was a leader in the Pistons locker room and said that the deal was the most difficult he's ever had to make in his career despite him coveting Bradley for some time:
#Pistons SVG on Marcus Morris: "In this job, it's the hardest (trade) I've had to make, by far. Marcus was everything we'd want in a player"
If there's a big knock in Morris' game it's his effectiveness on the glass. That's obviously not something Celtics fans want to hear given the team's struggles on the boards last season where they finished 25th in the league in rebounding. For a guy that's 6'9, only snagging 4.6 rebounds per game last season is a little disappointing. I was hoping it had to do with Andre Drummond snatching all the boards in Detroit but apparently that isn't the case:
Bradley had a better rebound rate than Marcus Morris last season. (I know, Morris played with Drummond. But still. Cs still need board help)
Trading one of the best rebounders on your team, shooting guard or not, for a guy who doesn't actually excel in that area stings a little when your team struggled so hard in that department last season, but hopefully the addition of Baynes helps move the needle in the right direction on the boards.
The ugly stuff is pretty bad but I'd like to think Ainge and Co did their homework on Morris and he's genuinely a good guy that got mixed up in a shitty situation. We'll find out soon enough.
The Really Good:
As to not end this on a bad note there's another huge plus to Morris that could really benefit the Celtics, particularly in the spring - he's one of the best defenders of LeBron James over the past two seasons. Given that the Piston's played the Cavaliers in the 2016 playoffs it's not such a small sample size as Morris has matched up with LeBron 10 times over the past two years. According to Tom Haberstrom of ESPN, James posted an average of 20.5 per 100 possessions against Morris in 2015-16, his lowest mark against any defender in the entire NBA. That was over 3 regular season matchup and a 4-game playoff series. This season LeBron averaged 22 ppg and a measly 9% shooting from three against the Pistons, where he was guarded mostly by Morris yet again.
There's a lot to like about what Morris brings to the table. While people will likely always compare him to Boston's beloved Avery Bradley given that they were directly traded for one another, hopefully his worth still shines through. He's been a fan favorite in Detroit for the past two seasons and his game and personality will likely translate well to a city that appreciates guys that play hard and bring an edge to their game.
He definitely seems excited about heading to Boston:
Nothing but love for Detroit!! Thanks for everything. Time to get to it ☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️#BostonGottaDOG!!!!!!