Nugget of the Month: Monte Morris

Following a stellar NBA Summer League, Monte Morris, who played just three games in the NBA as a rookie last season, was offered the Denver Nuggets’ 2018-19 final roster spot, inking a multi-year deal in late July. The addition of the 6-foot-3, 180-pound player gave Denver some much needed depth at the point guard position behind emerging star and settled starter Jamal Murray. It also provided Morris with the opportunity to earn playing time early as free-agent acquisition veteran Isaiah Thomas recovered from injury.

A little more than four months later, Morris is an indispensable member of coach Michael Malone’s rotation and one of the most reliable lead guards in the entire NBA, topping the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (7.50:1). That’s why fans voted the Iowa State product as the Budweiser Nugget of the Month. Morris averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 assists in 25 minutes per game while shooting 53.2 percent from the field, including 43.3 percent from behind the 3-point line in November.

“Everything’s slowed down for me,” Morris told Altitude TV’s Katy Winge and Chris Dempsey on “Nuggets 24K,” the team’s official podcast. “That was my biggest adjustment. The speed of the game was so much faster, just knowing how to make passes because guys were so long and finishing and getting my shot off.”

Morris continued: “Once the game slowed down for me, and that’s at every level for me, I’ve been able to adjust.”

His season tallies of 90 assists against only 18 turnovers has him on pace to set an NBA record assist-to-turnover ratio for players averaging at least 20 minutes per game. Morris had nine zero-turnover games in 15 contests in November. He’s logged 15 assists and given the ball away just once in the Nuggets’ last three games, victories against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers, amid a five-game win streak.

Elite ball security has long been a Hallmark of Morris’s, Morris led the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio three times and the set the single-season record as a senior two years ago. But, not only is he taking care of the basketball, he’s also putting it in the hole.

In the Nuggets’ 113-112 win on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers Friday Night, he led the bench unit with 16 points on a team-best 7-for-8 shooting (87.5 percent) from the field, a clip that featured 2-for-3 shooting from downtown. He led the Nuggets in scoring for the first time in his career with 19 points in a 109-99 loss against the Houston Rockets on Nov. 13.

Twenty-five games into his NBA career, the 23-year-old is already playing like a seasoned vet.

“The more possessions we get without turning the ball over, the more chances we’ve got to score,” Morris said. “My mindset, If I see a guy open, I make the play. If I got a shot, I take it. I don’t try to overthink it. Basketball is a really simple game. You draw a defender, you got two on the ball, get off of it. I don’t try to make it too difficult. It’s really no secret. I just go out there and play my game.”