Denver Nuggets’ Monte Morris reflects on draft experience ahead of important offseason
Monte Morris was nine picks away from going undrafted in the 2017 draft, so he knows he can’t take his time in the NBA for granted. The 23-year-old is looking forward to his third year in the league and firmly believes he’s primed for a big season.
“[I’ve been] doing good [in the offseason]. Back to working out, doing all legs,” Morris told Nuggets.com at his ProStart Sports basketball camp. “Next season, I'll come back way more faster and way more explosive. It's going to be a fun season for people to see, I'm ready to take that step.”
Morris is coming off a strong season, during which he went from playing in three NBA games in his rookie campaign to 82 in his second year. He was one of the most efficient guards in the league as his 5.71 assist to turnover was second best in that category. He was also a strong shooter in the regular season, averaging 10.4 points a game in 24 minutes per game, while shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from downtown – good for 13th in the NBA.
Morris emphasized the need of adding flexibility in his end-of-the-season press conference. He called himself “stiff” to use the exact term. In the weeks since, Morris has been doing Yoga stretching sessions, hoping to loosen up, add mobility and, as he calls it, “extend my limbs.”
Morris’ drive comes from what he felt was a perplexing draft experience. He is an icon at Iowa State, a place where he broke records and shined as a four-year standout. As a freshman, he set the NCAA assist-to-turnover ratio record at 4.79, only to break it again as a senior at 5.21. He led the NCAA in the category each of his four seasons in Ames. But his strengths didn’t just lie with his playmaking. He was an All-Big 12 first team player his senior year and a second-teamer in sophomore and junior campaigns. Yet, despite all of those accomplishments, he continued to be projected as a late second rounder in mock drafts.
“I just thought 'There's no way, I can't get drafted -- with the college career I had,'” Morris reflected. “[I was like] man, three championships, all-time leader in assists, steals at my school -- what else can I do?”
In the weeks leading up to the draft, the uncertainty around whether or not Morris would land on an NBA roster was a stressful period for the Flint, Mich. native.
“That week was hell, I was stressing,” Morris said. “The draft process was tough for me. You had so many adjustments to make in a small window.”
Then as the 2017 draft unfolded, it appeared as if his fears might materialize.
“I was like I'm on the verge of going undrafted and I'm like 'Yo, this is crazy’” he said.
Fortunately, for Morris, the guard wouldn’t slip out of the draft. He would be selected by the Denver Nuggets with the 51st overall pick. The entire process would mirror the patience and perseverance Morris has shown during his time in the league so far.
“It fueled my fire [being drafted so low]. I went into summer league [motivated],” Morris said. “I didn't really have the opportunity in my first year that I had in my second year. I just knew the next year would be way different.”
It sure was.