Marcus Morris Becoming Legitimate Offensive Option

Marcus Morris takes the ball during the Suns first Summer League game in Las Vegas.

Through two games at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Marcus Morris has shown the versatility that made him a lottery pick and, later, a player the Suns wanted to the point of trading for him.

More importantly, Morris’ offense has developed to the point of earning isolation opportunities on offense. His resulting success (16.0 ppg through two contests) has led to double-teams, extra ball movement and, ultimately, a buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper that overcame an 18-point halftime deficit in Monday’s win over Minnesota.

Morris has thrived posting up defenders while playing small forward when Markieff Morris and another big man (Alex Oriakhi or Arinze Onuaku) are on the floor at the same time. His ability to make plays as a taller “three”, combined with the resulting defensive mismatch, allow him to become a dependable offensive option.

Monday’s game saw Morris get to the free throw line for seven attempts as a result. On one play he added an up-fake after his initial power dribble into the lane, drawing contact. On another, he pivoted around the defender, caught his own miss and converted the putback. A later post-up sequence saw him bull his way through his defender deep into the paint, clear space and bank in the easy basket.

Morris was quick to admit, however, that such mismatches won’t be as easily earned in the regular season.

“I think these guys are not natural fours, so it’s easy for me to post them up,” Morris said. “I think during the year, four men are not going to be that small. Definitely just staying in that mid-range area, knocking down the open three, just doing all the other things to help the team win.”

Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek believes Morris’ improved range on his jump shot has made him into a taller version of an NBA small forward, one that can pick and choose offensive options depending on matchups.

“He had that [midrange ability] in college. He’s developed the outside game, the deep three, since he’s been in the pros,” Hornacek said. “That’s kind of his strength. If we can get him at the three spot against some [small forwards], he should be able to take advantage of it.”

The Suns have seen plenty of that face-up game as well, whether it’s when Morris finds himself guarded by bigger, slower forwards or smaller perimeter players.

On Monday, Morris started the second half with an elbow jumper over his defender. Later he rolled into the key, drew the double-team, and kicked it out to his brother Markieff for an open 3-pointer. He duplicated the play later, only this time answering the double-team with a quick pass to a cutting PJ Tucker for an easy layup.

Morris’ early summer league efficiency hasn’t been as high as he’d like, but that may be the only thing keeping a good night like Monday’s (18 points, 5-for-14, four rebounds, three assists, three steals) from being a great one.

“I get into my area, just pulling up,” Morris said. “I think I shot terrible [Monday], but I made the last shot, so that’s all that matters.”