Denver Nuggets Season Review: Monte Morris
Games: 82, PPG: 10.4, APG: 3.6, FG: .493
Emboldened by a strong rookie year season spent mostly in the G League, Monte Morris took advantage of extended minutes in his sophomore year to showcase why he’s one of the more efficient guards in the NBA.
After only playing in three NBA games last season, Morris played in 82 this year and was second in the league in assists-to-turnover ratio (5.71). But playmaking wasn’t the only area where the 23-year-old was able to make an impact.
Morris was a welcome steady hand on offense for the Nuggets. He shot nearly 50 percent from the field and was also impressive from downtown, hitting 41.4 percent of his threes—good for 13th in the league.
All of these developments were remarkable due to the fact Morris was originally slotted to be the third-string point guard for the Nuggets. With Isaiah Thomas recovering from hip surgery, Morris got an opportunity and thrived in it.
“For him to come in as the backup point guard, which was a role people questioned coming into the season, I don't think there are any questions about it now and that's all because of how he played,” Will Barton said in his end-of-the-season availability. “How he ran the team, never turned the ball over, he was steady the whole year. To have a young guy like that in his first season, that's big time.”
Morris’ breakout stretch arguably came in six-game run in mid-December. Up against the Grizzlies, Thunder, Raptors, Mavericks, Clippers and Spurs, he averaged 15.3 points and 4.8 assists while shooting almost 60 percent from both the floor and downtown. His best game of the season was arguably in a rare start against Minnesota on Feb. 2. Facing a Timberwolves team that was still fighting for their playoff lives at that stage at Target Center, Morris came close to having his first-ever career triple-double, putting up 17 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in a 107-106 win.
The key for Morris entering his third season will be improving his fitness. The former Iowa State standout struggled in the postseason, which he attributed to the amount of games he played overall this season (96).
“Personally, I know I struggled in the playoffs but overall, with this being my first time going through this long season, for me to hit my walls when I did and get back from it, I didn't get too down on myself because I know I can play at this level,” Morris said at his end of the season availability.
He added, “Flexibility is going to be big for me this summer, working on my hip power, getting a lot faster, my mobility. On court I'll still be the same, grinding like I did last summer. But I'm going to focus more on my body more when it comes to movement, so I can be more durable down the stretch of the season."
Still to land one of the league’s better reserve point guards with the 51st overall pick in 2017, the future appears bright for Morris.
“Overall, I think I showed everyone in the league that I took advantage of the situation and waited for his number to be called to go out there and play, get my teammates involved every single night and have fun with it."
Morris is from Flint, MI and remains active in the community. He donated water bottles to the town in college and made a visit this season when the Nuggets played the Pistons in Detroit.