Friday, November 20, 2015

Total Eclipse of the Chart: Marcus Morris

Marcus Morris was one of the keys to the Pistons' 5-1 start, as his instant offense helped carry a unit that struggled to generate easy looks.  Morris averaged 17 PPG on 41.4% shooting over Detroit's first six contests, making for an adequate third option in an offense that was good enough to support a stellar defense.  Five games and four losses later, Morris has gone ice cold, dropping to 11.6 PPG on some really fugly 32.8% shooting.  While his shot selection will probably always be an issue, Morris' shooting troubles to this point in the year can't possibly continue.  Based off of his career numbers and the simple law of averages, we should expect Morris to find his stroke.  While his outside shooting should round into form, Morris could also help himself by managing his offense better.  Here's a more detailed look at what Morris is doing offensively this year, and why we should expect him to bounce back from his recent slump.

Let's start by taking a look at Morris' percentages so far this season, compared to last year's, as well as where he's taking his shots from, using Basketball-Reference's shot data:

Shooting% FGA by Distance
Marcus MorrisFG%eFG%% Ast'd3P%% Ast'd2P%% Ast'd3PAr0 to 33 to 1010 to 1616 < 3PA

The important part here isn't that his percentages are down, it's how he's getting his shots and where he's taking them from.  There's been a significant drop in the amount of Morris' FGA that have been assisted.  The Pistons have opted to run isolation sets or post ups for him frequently this season.  That's clearly having an effect on his ability to be an efficient scorer.  The other thing that jumps out is that he's traded shots at the rim and from beyond the three point line for mid-range jumpers.  The shots he's taking less of are the game's most valuable ways to construct an offense.  He's shifted 18% of his shots away from the rim and three point attempts and into mid-range jumpers.  That's something that Stan Van Gundy needs to find a way to fix moving forward.  It should be a focus early in the game to get Morris going towards the basket, or to run a pick-and-pop to get him started beyond the arc.  If the Pistons can fix how and where Marcus Morris gets his shots, the offense is bound to benefit.

If numbers aren't quite your thing, the visual breakdown gives the same effect.  You can see how three point heavy Morris' game was in Phoenix last season, and how mid-range heavy it's been this season, especially on the left (right if you're facing the basket) block, where there's an awful lot of red:

He's struggled from the corners to this point in the season, but I would prefer to see the Pistons create more looks for Morris in the corners.  He shot 40.7% on corner threes last season, and 37.3% the year prior.  While Ilyasova occupies the weakside corner on the Andre-Reggie pick-and-roll, and does a damn good job of it, Morris should fill this role for the second unit.  With the bench unit's struggles early in the season, Marcus Morris has played more of his minutes with the reserves.  Morris, normally a very reliable outside shooter, could provide a wonderful outlet to a Dinwiddie-Baynes pick-and-roll.  As odd as the thought of a Dinwiddie-Baynes PnR being a staple sounds, I'd prefer to see that over Morris going 1-on-1.

The other thing that could help Morris improve his efficiency is getting him more looks at the rim.  You can see from his heat map that going to the basket was a profitable activity for Mook last season in Phoenix:
As far as ways to get Morris going towards the basket, I have fewer solutions there.  Running pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop sets with Morris doesn't really make sense when he's on the floor with Andre Drummond.  It wouldn't make sense to take away possessions from one of the league's best roll men.  When he's playing with the reserves, that could be an option to get Morris going towards the rim, where he's an adequate finisher.

Whatever they do to make the fixes, Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons need to create offensive success for Marcus Morris.  More shots from behind the long line and at the rim, and fewer mid-range jumpers, can only do good things for Mook.  Detroit needs Morris to be closer to the scorer that he was in Phoenix than what he's been this season if they're going to earn a playoff bid this season.

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