With injuries ravaging the Denver Nuggets throughout the 2021-22 season, a number of players had to step into larger roles than what they or the team had planned for. And perhaps no player had a greater undertaking due to injury than point guard Monte Morris.
For the first four seasons of his career, Morris routinely averaged between 22 and 25 minutes per game. He never once averaged more than nine shot attempts or three three-point attempts per game. His second season saw his highest point average with 10.4.
But this year, he got nearly 30 minutes per night, over 10 shot attempts -- nearly five of them from three -- and scored more than he's ever scored in the NBA. The injury to Jamal Murray forced him to be a full-time starter, a role that the Nuggets did not intend on him playing.
However, the pressure of being a starting point guard for a playoff team -- after being a reserve for four seasons -- never seemed to faze Morris. Instead, he gave the Nuggets heart and hustle every night, building confidence throughout the campaign.
Now, as Murray gears up to eventually return, the Nuggets know they have a strong backup who's capable of taking over a game if the moment demands.
Morris' Season Timeline
With the knowledge of Murray's injury, Morris began the year as the Nuggets' starting point guard. It was a show of faith from the coaching staff that their second round draft pick from 2017 was ready for the next step in his career.
As it would be the case for any player undergoing a massive role change, though, Morris struggles out of the gates. He failed to reach double figures in six of his first 12 games, shooting just 30.4% from three in that span.
But those 12 games were all it would take for the Nuggets' guard to heat up. Over his next 20 games, Morris shot a scorching 41.8% from three, averaging 13.9 points and 4.5 assists and reaching double figures 17 times.
Within that stretch was a 22-point, six-rebound, five-assist performance that served as one of the most complete of Morris' season. In a six-point win over the Washington Wizards, he was a plus-13, signaling the impact he had on Dec. 13.
After missing three games at the end of 2021, Morris returned to his season-high in three pointers made, going 5-of-9 for 20 points against the Utah Jazz. Despite it being a losing effort, Morris was one of just two Nuggets players to have a positive plus-minus, leading the team with a plus-3.
From there until the end of the regular season, Morris was a model of consistency. he shot 40.7% from three over his last 43 games, and only had a negative plus-minus in 13 of those outings. In a difficult situation without their star guard, Morris became a hugely reliable piece quicker than anyone could have expected given the circumstances.
In the final games of the regular season, Morris had a pair of back-to-back season highs. It started with points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 1, reaching 23 on 8-of-12 from the field. Then, on April 3, he dished out 10 assists in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the Playoffs, Morris continued to be one of the Nuggets' most consistent performers. In the five games against the Golden State Warriors, Morris averaged 14.0 points and 5.4 assists on 49.0% from the field and 42.3% from three.
Now, as he heads into his sixth NBA season, the confidence he's built for 2021-22 should allow him to take yet another leap forward.
Facts and Figures
In 2021-22, Morris was tied atop the Nuggets leaderboards for games played, appearing in 75. He was a starter in 74 of them, averaging 29.9 minutes per game. Morris finished the season with 12.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game on 48.4% from the field. 39.5% from three, and 86.9% from the free throw line.
His minutes, points, rebound, and assist figures all represented career highs. He also had his most efficient shooting season, with career highs in Effective Field Goal percentage and True Shooting percentage, both of which stood significantly above league averages.
Morris finished third on the Nuggets in three pointers made, and was second in offensive box plus-minus and offensive win shares. He also had the Nuggets' second-highest Value over Replacement Player.