The Pistons scooped up 30-year-old Markieff Morris on a two-year deal (player option for year two) worth $6.5 million. As the season begins, Morris is projected to be the first big off the bench. There’s another Morris that looks just like him who played for the Pistons from 2015-17. His name is Marcus. They’re twins. These facts are, quite simply, irrefutable.
- Started the season in Washington (34 games) before being traded to New Orleans in February. He was immediately waved by the Pelicans and signed by Oklahoma City where he played 24 games for the Thunder.
- Morris was inactive for the final 19 games of his stay in Washington. Officially, he was diagnosed with “transient cervical neurapraxia,” basically, a sore neck. Unofficially, the Wizards were looking to retool after John Wall’s season-ending Achilles injury.
- He struggled to find footing in OKC averaging 6.5 points on 39% field goal shooting in just over 16 minutes per game.
- He also failed to rebound the damn ball.
- Morris had high praise for the Thunder organization, though, saying, “Basketball didn’t work out for me as I wanted it to, but this was the best stop of my career as far as everything else. I look forward to playing for Detroit and the championship parade going down Woodward next June should be fun.”
- I made up that last sentence.
- Per Cleaning the Glass, 30% of Keef’s field goal attempts while in OKC came at the rim, 33% from the mid-range, and 37% were three-pointers. As a Wizard, he held a slightly higher frequency from three and slightly lower at the rim.
How will Markieff Morris hold up while defending the perimeter?
Morris is slated to be the main backup big heading into the season. Whether that’s at power forward or center is irrelevant to this big question because both positions require checking stretch-bigs and the pick-and-roll time and time again.
Down low, Morris will be fine. Not in a classic rim protection, two blocks a game, kind of way, but with his savvy, cut off the scoring angles, not afraid to bang style of play.
Where he’s vulnerable is in space and, unfortunately, we at DBB already know something about bigs who are susceptible to perimeter shortcomings.
Last season, we saw both Blake Griffin and Thon Maker do their best matador impression on far too many occasions when closing out on the three-point line:
There is an art to closing out that includes stopping the ball, if only for a bounce, and the Pistons’ bigs have proven to be far from Picasso.
If you were with us last season, you’d know that a major part of Dwane Casey’s defensive scheme is to run guys off the line. In an NBA world that has gone three-point crazy, Casey is hoping to limit those coveted looks by running guys off the line. In a sense, that part of the defense worked last year as only the Utah Jazz surrendered less three-point attempts per game than the Pistons’ 27.8.
All successful defensive schemes, however, also rely on multiple rotations via multiple efforts on each possession. Detroit gets in trouble when the offense blows by the shitty closeout and attacks the rim before the four remaining defenders have a chance to recognize and react. It’s on those types of plays that typically leave Andre Drummond, unfairly, looking like a fool. Per Cleaning the Glass, teams shot nearly 66% near the rim against Detroit, ranking 27th. I’d bet a too-high-than-it-should-be number of those made baskets originated with poor containment followed by a late rotation.
Are those easy deuces worth prioritizing limiting three-point attempts? It’s a question Dwane Casey must ask himself.
The ideal closeout is a happy medium between the mess depicted by Blake and Thon from above and this ultra-conservative example by Morris:
During his time in OKC last year, spot-up shooters scored 1.07 points per possession against
Morris which registers as average according to Synergy. In Washington, spot-up shooters scored 1.176 PPP against Keef, a number that is considered poor.
Context matters, a lot, and I’m not going to pretend to know the Wiz or Thunder’s priorities or game plans so Markieff gets a fresh start with me, but I’ll be watching.
Andre Drummond, my sanity, and Laz’s new pod cannot handle another big defender with average-to-poor perimeter results. Let’s not make it an issue, cool?
Markieff Morris will join Derrick Rose, Luke Kennard, and depending on the opponent, a mix of Langston Galloway, Thon Maker, or Christian Wood(?) coming off Detroit’s bench. Look for Morris to play the role of starter when Blake Griffin is managing his workload.
In the halfcourt, Morris will garner most of field goal attempts from the post:
Yikes, let’s see if we can get one those to drop:
A little better, I guess.
Get use to an 1-for-3 outcome for Morris as he’s a career 33-percent three-point shooter.
As discussed multiple times during DBB’s season preview for the Pistons, launching threes will be a huge part of the team’s identity and Morris is going to have the green light to shoot. But that doesn’t mean he has the green light to simply hover around the line and wait to chuck. Morris, like all members of the Pistons, need to do a better job of mixing in timely cuts to give ball-handlers more moving targets:
The “how am I going to get this shot off?” seems predetermined. Don’t get me wrong, guys like Morris own a bag of go-to tricks, I just don’t want Keef operating in comfort zone rather than taking what the defense generously gives him.
In transition, and particularly playing with Derrick Rose, look for these trailing threes to become somewhat of a signature shot:
The offensive looks are great and all, but Markieff Morris is here to do two things: actually give a fuck about playing some defense, and kick some ass. For everyone involved, hopefully he doesn’t run out of fucks to give.