Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pistons to Acquire Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, Danny Granger

As first reported by, who else, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Pistons have acquired Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger from the Phoenix Suns in return for a 2020 2nd round pick.  The deal came out of nowhere this afternoon, as the Pistons clearly felt the need to switch plans to fill their gap at SF, and the Suns felt the need to clear cap space in their pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge.  While Morris doesn't offer the kind of upgrade at the SF position that most Pistons fans, myself included, had in mind this summer, it's hard not to like the value that the Pistons obtained in the trade.  Morris will almost certainly step into the starting SF role, with Bullock providing youth at the end of the bench in Detroit, or a project in Grand Rapids.  There hasn't been any legitimate word on what's going to happen with Granger yet, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume he'll be bought out to free up a roster spot.  What happens with Granger isn't the important part; what is, is that the Pistons turned a future 2nd round pick into a starting SF on a fantastic contract that runs for another four seasons.

Marcus Morris
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3PAr
3P%
TRB%
AST%
DRtg
2013-14
9.7
14.8
19.9%
55.2%
.399
38.1%
9.9%
7.6%
107
2014-15
10.4
13.7
19.0%
52.0%
.410
35.8%
10.3%
10.2%
107
Career
8.9
13.2
19.3%
52.5%
.413
36.3%
10.1%
8.1%
107

Morris was never a cornerstone in Phoenix's offense, nor was he the most used Morris brother on his own team.  However, he played his role somewhat efficiently, although his 2014-15 output was a slight step down from a solid 2013-14 campaign.  The Pistons will be hoping they got 2013-14 Morris, although his most recent season was by no means an utter failure.  According to Basketball-Reference, Morris played more than half of his minutes at the SF position two years ago, which flipped in 2014-15.  It's hard to say if that was what was behind Morris' change in production, but with the Pistons figuring to play Morris more at the 3, it will be interesting to see if he can repeat an efficient 2013-14 season.  It's not really fair to judge Morris' rebounding numbers in this context, but with his size, he should be a solid rebounder from the SF position.  An interesting change in his numbers from 2013-14 to 2014-15 came in the form of an increase in AST%, despite the move from SF to PF.  He's far, far from an elite playmaker, but it looks like there may be something there to work with.

The play-type statistics don't really offer a whole lot on Morris that you can't glean from his advanced stats:

Play Type
Possessions
Pts. Per Possession (Rank)
Isolation
114
0.89 (28/58)
PnR Ball-Handler
56
0.84 (39/179)
PnR Roll Man
46
0.83 (102/128)
Spot Up
287
0.98 (52/71)
Cut
42
1.17 (88/164)
Off-Screen
44
1.20 (1/95)

One thing of note: Morris' 287 spot-up possessions ranked 14th among all NBA players in 2014-15, which should match his role within the Pistons' offense going forward.  Although his rank in that category isn't impressive, his ability to notch close to a full point per possession despite being one of the most heavily-used spot up shooters in the league is worth pointing out.  The NBA's play-type statistics are only available for this past season, but I would imagine Morris finished 2013-14 well above 1.00 PPP in spot-up situations that year, considering he shot over two full percentage points better from beyond the arc.  Morris isn't a great isolation option, but he's better than what the Pistons had on the wing last year.  The only Piston who posted a better PPP in iso situations in 2014-15 was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (0.95), but he did so in less than half as many possessions as Morris.  That part of Morris' game should shrink in 2015-16, as it doesn't fit the Pistons' desired style of play, but it will be nice to have another late shot clock option.

Defensively, Morris is equally middle-of-the-road according to the NBA's play-type stats:

Play Type
Possessions
Pts. Per Poss. Allowed (Rank)
Isolation
93
0.84 (28/52)
PnR Ball-Handler
125
0.74 (41/126)
PnR Roll Man
27
0.67 (NR)
Spot Up
187
0.89 (20/74)
Off-Screen
36
0.89 (NR)

There's nothing special there, but again, he should be an improvement over what the Pistons have been running out at SF over the past few years.  The most encouraging thing I see in Morris' play-type numbers, is that there isn't a single situation where Morris allows more points than he scores.  That's not a straight formula for success, but it suggests that he's going to have a chance to win his matchup just about every night.  Again, this is a big change for the Pistons at SF.

As far as non production-type things go, the best thing about acquiring Morris is his team-friendly contract.  Prior to the 2014-15 season, Marcus Morris signed a five year, $25M deal with the Suns.  That deal is the same as the one Kyle Singler signed this week with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Singler's a nice role player, but I'll take Morris any day of the week.  In the long run, as the cap rises and Morris enters his prime (he'll be under contract until he turns 30), the Pistons should reap the benefits of the deal signed by Morris and the Suns.  Even if Morris can't produce on the floor in Detroit, the nature of his contract is going to allow Detroit the option to move on quickly.  Even in the worst-case scenario of this deal, the Pistons gave up a 2nd round pick in 2020 for a guy who is going to be easy to get rid of.

While it seems like Morris has quite a bit to offer the Pistons on the court, he has to straighten some things out off the floor.  Along with twin brother and Suns' teammate Markieff, Marcus Morris was charged with felony aggravated assault in April of this year.  The brothers, along with three other men, were charged with the crime for beating up an associate of the Morris twins.  The twins' lawyer has stated that he expects them to be cleared of the charges throughout the legal process, but the fact that Marcus Morris was even implicated in the situation is troubling.  It's even more troubling when you consider just how hot-headed Morris has shown he can be.  He finished just outside the top ten in the league in technical fouls for the 2014-15 season, and had an ugly, public blowup with Suns coach Jeff Hornacek during a timeout.  While he can offer major improvements at the SF position, it should be noted that there's a chance he quite simply blows up in Stan Van Gundy's face.  That's the one thing that gives me pause as far as Morris goes.

The other piece in the trade that's likely to stay in Detroit, Reggie Bullock, is facing an uphill battle for minutes.  With KCP and Jodie Meeks in front of him at the SG position, and Morris and Stanley Johnson ahead of him at SF, Bullock is going to need to breathe some life into his career if he's going to play.  He was a solid outside shooter in his three years at North Carolina, and had a good junior season before declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft, but he has yet to do anything of note as a pro.  The Pistons will be Bullock's third team in as many NBA seasons.  He's yet to even top 800 career minutes in the NBA, so I won't bother with his stats here.  Both the Clippers and Suns did Bullock a disservice by not sending him on more D-League assignments.  He's only appeared in 4 D-League games despite seeing the floor in less than half of the possible 164 NBA games he could have played in.  Hopefully the Pistons utilize the Grand Rapids connection to evaluate whether or not Bullock has something to offer long-term. 

If Bullock has one thing working in his favor, it's that former coach Doc Rivers gave him one heck of an endorsement (h/t to Matt Buys):
"He's had injury problems, so we never really got a chance to see the full Reggie, but he can really shoot and he hasn't done that great yet, but he will," Rivers said. "I'm almost guaranteeing that, that he'll end up being a heck of a shooter in this league"
 I'll admit, I don't know all that much about Bullock, but if Doc says he's going to be good, there's got to be something there.  Whether we ever see it will probably depend on Bullock turning some heads in training camp or taking advantage of any injuries on the wings.  I will say this though, he may have that endorsement from Doc, but he's only made 37 of his 119 three point attempts through two seasons.  It's now or never if he's going to be the shooter he's made out to be.

Marcus Morris isn't the upgrade we all had in mind entering this summer's free agency period, but after seeing DeMarre Carroll and Danny Green cash in on bloated deals, the Pistons could have left July in worse straits.  Morris essentially cost nothing to acquire, should be the best Pistons' SF since Tayshaun Prince was still good, and is on an extremely team-friendly deal.  Even though free agency didn't go as planned, Stan Van Gundy and his front office crew have once again leveraged an opportune time to make a trade drenched in positive value.  You simply don't get players of Morris' caliber, with a throw-in like Bullock, for the cost of one future 2nd round pick.  Kudos to Stan Van Gundy for recovering after Plan A fell through.  Not everybody is pleased though, and I've seen suggestions (mostly fueled by the Baynes signing) that SVG hasn't improved the team since taking over.  That's quite simply not true.  Here's the depth chart at the end of the 2013-14 season, which was Dumars' last:

Position
1st
2nd
3rd
PG
Brandon Jennings
Will Bynum
Peyton Siva
SG
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Rodney Stuckey
Chauncey Billups
SF
Josh Smith
Kyle Singler
Luigi Datome
PF
Greg Monroe
Jonas Jerebko
Charlie Villanueva
C
Andre Drummond
Josh Harrellson
Tony Mitchell (PF)

That's pretty ugly.  Now, here's what this year's depth chart will presumably look like:

Position
1st
2nd
3rd
PG
Reggie Jackson
Brandon Jennings
Spencer Dinwiddie
SG
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Jodie Meeks
Cartier Martin
SF
Marcus Morris
Stanley Johnson
Reggie Bullock
PF
Ersan Ilyasova
Anthony Tolliver
Quincy Miller
C
Andre Drummond
Aron Baynes
N/A

KCP and Drummond are the constants in the starting five, with Jennings sliding to the bench after the Reggie Jackson acquisition.  Monroe is obviously better than Ilyasova in a vacuum, but the depth throughout at every single position is better since Stan Van Gundy took over.  Spencer Dinwiddie would have been the backup PG on Dumars' last team.  Meeks-Stuckey is a push and it's not worth arguing Martin vs. 2013-14 Billups.  The SF version of Josh Smith is definitely worse than Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson should be better than Kyle Singler, and, if nothing else, Reggie Bullock has a lot more upside than Datome did.  Tolliver-Jerebko is close enough to call a push, and Miller vs. Villanueva isn't even close.  I'll also take Baynes over Harrellson.  So, at what position other than starting PF was Dumars' last team better than what Van Gundy is putting together?  The most striking thing is, the bottom of the depth chart on Dumars' last squad is all veterans, with the exception of Siva.  At least with SVG, he realizes that you might as well take a gamble on the guys you're stashing at the end of the bench.  Argue all you want about whether or not Van Gundy has the team on the championship path, but it's not accurate to say he isn't improving the roster.

The offseason should be just about wrapped up for the Pistons now, with only a third string C still on the needs list.  Things didn't play out as planned, but the Pistons are better now than they were at the end of the season, thanks to two smart trades.  The Baynes signing may prove to be short-sighted, but if your biggest complaint about Van Gundy is that he overpaid a backup C, he did alright.   The Pistons may not have come back from free agency with a big name, but they've plugged their holes with adequate players that don't complicate the team's long-term flexibility.  The depth chart you see above isn't the end-game of the plan, but another step along the way.

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