Does Marcus Morris fit into the Rockets' plans? After his rookie season, the jury is still out.
BY: KYLE ADAMS
If you would have told me before the season started that the Rockets’ second- round pick from 2011, Chandler Parsons, would play in 63 games and start 57 of them, I wouldn’t have believe it.
If you would have told me before the season the Rockets’ first-round pick and 14th overall selection Marcus Morris would only play in 16 games the entire season, I would think you were insane.
But that’s exactly what happened this season. Morris started the season on the Rockets’ bench, but on January 2, and only three games into it, he was sent down to Rio Grande Valley of the D-League. In his first game in the D-League on January 6, Morris recorded 33 points and 16 rebounds. He played in 11 games, started nine of them, and averaged 22 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes a game. Morris returned to the Rockets on January 16, but did not see any playing time and was reassigned to Rio Grande Valley on February 3. The former University of Kansas star had three double-doubles, scored more than 30 points three times, and had more than 15 rebounds twice. After putting up huge numbers in the D-League, he returned to the Rockets again on February 20 and will finish the season with the team on Thursday against the Hornets.
After his stellar play in the D-League, most people expected to see first-year head coach Kevin McHale give Morris a legitimate shot at cracking the rotation. Not the case. McHale only played Morris sparingly, mostly for a few minutes early in the second quarter or in garbage time. He’s only hit double-digit minutes twice in a game, with the most being 16.
Giving a top pick inconsistent playing time, and sending him down to the minors more than once, is not the way to develop a rookie. It could affect his confidence and backfire in a significant way. I understand that the Rockets are deep at the forward spot, but Chase Budinger is most likely not in the Rockets’ future plans. It would have made sense for the Rockets to trade Budinger at the deadline and fill his spot with Morris, who boasts versatility and deft offensive game that Budinger lacks.
When Morris was drafted, people used the word “tweener” to describe his style of play. It’s much more of a backhanded compliment, essentially saying that Morris is not big enough to play power forward and not quick enough to play small forward. I think it’s safe to say, after watching Morris play in the NBA, he is going to be a small forward. He is a poor man’s Carmelo Anthony. He has a nice touch with his shot, can shoot the jumper, and can fadeaway if he has to. He struggles from deep, but so did Anthony when he was a rookie. I think with hard work in the offseason, Morris can develop his range. He also has a similar post-up game to Anthony. He can back you down and shoot over the top, or spin off you and lay it in. He can also slash to the basket at times. He is a decent free throw shooter.
The biggest thing he struggles with is his defense, which also reminds me of Anthony. He isn’t the most gifted athlete, but he should be able to defend better than he does. He needs to give more of an effort on defense and spend most of his time working on it in the offseason. I’m not completely sure if he fits in with the Rockets and their future, only because we haven’t seen enough to judge. He only averages 6.5 minutes a game. If the Rockets get a deal that blows them away, I think they would part with Morris, if it’s for a star player or to move up in the draft and potentially draft a future star.
What the Rockets should do is part with Budinger, and give his job to Morris next season. Have him back up Parsons, which could be a great one-two punch. Parsons plays great defense, and Morris could come off the bench and replace him with a potentially great offensive game. McHale needs to put more trust into him. If you give him consistent minutes, he could gain confidence, and the Marcus Morris that we thought the Rockets drafted could appear. It would be idiotic to draft a guy first overall and not give him a legitimate shot before moving him. The Rockets should see what they’ve got first.
Is he the next Carmelo Anthony? Maybe. Maybe not. But you won’t know unless you give him an opportunity.