The Detroit Pistons signed Markieff Morris to add toughness, veteran leadership, grit, blah blah blah. The team can talk about how the price was too good to pass up or that his brother Marcus, who was beloved in Motown, convinced his twin brother Detroit was a great place to play.
None of it really matters if Markieff Morris can’t do one thing — rebound the ball.
Jon Leuer, who Morris is ostensibly replacing in the lineup (and pegged to play a much ... ahem ... bigger role), didn’t really do anything right. But here’s an alarming stat for you. Leuer was a better rebounder than Morris.
Though that’s sort of damning with faint praise.
Last season, of the 190 players listed as forwards by NBA.com who played at least 30 games, Leuer ranked a respectable No. 67 overall in rebound percentage at 11.8%. Morris ranked just No. 113 overall at 10.1%. That’s pretty terrible for a 6-foot-10 power forward.
And somehow the Pistons are entering the season entertaining the idea that Morris might also be able to play backup center.
It’s true that Morris was injured last season and his all-around play was pretty terrible. However, Morris has always been an awful rebounder and I’m not sure the Pistons are in a position to give up the rebound battle whenever a bench lineup is on the floor.
Morris is a career 33.8% 3-point shooter, which doesn’t play as well as a power foward in this era of Mo Bamba and Brooke Lopez sinking multiple 3s a night, but it plays a hell of a lot better at center than it does power forward. And what Morris gives up in size he might be able to win back with his solid base and general peskiness on defense.
So, if you squint just right maybe center does make more sense as his natural position in today’s NBA. But those rebounding numbers just aren’t going to cut it. He rebounds worse than his twin brother, who he has a two-inch height advantage on (allegedly).
He had a lower rebound percentage than Luka Doncic for crying out loud.
The bench lineup, from a talent perspective, is greatly improved over last year’s hodge podge of the limited and the washed. But Detroit is already fighting an uphill battle committing to putting Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard on the floor together for long stretches. They need a little bit of defense and rim protection to get that done.
It’s no guarantee that Christian Wood makes the team as he fights Joe Johnson for the final roster spot, and Thon Maker ... well ... he’s an even worse rebounder than Markieff (ranking No. 125 out of 190).
The Pistons can’t play Andre Drummond 48 minutes a night so they need a backup center. And a reliable backup power forward to spell Blake Griffin.
That is why Morris is on this team, and if he is going to be asked to play both big man positions he is going to need to do the No. 1 thing asked of big men — rebound the damn ball.