Monte Morris – 2021-22 match stats
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Regular season history
Monte Morris was asked to undergo the most drastic change of any Denver Nuggets player this year. Prior to this season, Morris had started just 31 games in total, breaking the 30-minute mark a grand total of 34 times in the first four years of his career. This year, Morris has played over 30 minutes in 41 of 75 games, setting a career high in minutes played against mostly starters.
And Morris maintained his greatest skill within the Nuggets starting five: stability. Without Jamal Murray all season and Michael Porter Jr. for all but the first nine games, Morris was one of Denver’s mainstays all season, running the offense, setting the table for Nikola Jokić and reaching a career-high 124 three-pointers to a clip of 39.5%. There were some initial doubts about Morris’ abilities, but throughout the season Morris was the most consistent perimeter option. He wasn’t the best defender or the most athletic slasher or the most brilliant passer, but he did his job, helping the Nuggets rack up 48 wins.
Without Morris, the Nuggets would have been sunk. The main difference between him and his main replacement Facu Campazzo was the level of shooting talent. The Nuggets needed that extra boost throughout the year, and Morris came out on top in Denver on several occasions.
Did that translate into the playoffs?
Morris’ playoff series obviously only lasted five games, but he played pretty well offensively. Shooting 42% from three points is a good start, but Morris’ 5.4-to-1.6 assist-to-rotation ratio also stands out. Morris found success as a scorer and playmaker against the Warriors, although he was always defended by bigger players like Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.
Clearly guarding Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole was a bit out of Morris’ wheelhouse. He was constantly put in off-ball action while guarding Steph and rarely saw time on Poole due to the young guard’s combo of elite first step and shooting off the dribble. When he was on Klay, the tallest defender posted him multiple times with frequent hits, and Morris also struggled to stick with him on the perimeter.
Morris was far from the only weak point defensively, but the reality is he struggled to make an impact on that end of the field.
Best Moment – Buzzer Beater vs. Golden State
Could it really be something else? That three-pointer just before the All-Star break was a great feel-good moment for the Nuggets. The whole team was exhausted, but they gutted a win and capped it off with an incredibly clutch shot from Morris on Steph Curry.
Season rating: B+
The final ranking decision ended up a B+ or an A- because Morris did a great job replacing Jamal Murray. He was Denver’s second-best player for much of the season, and his chemistry with Jokić supported the Nuggets in a way reminiscent of Murray. The only reason it’s not an “A” grade is that Morris mostly translated his previous production and efficiency from bench minutes to start minutes. There wasn’t excessive growth in his game that would suggest he’s looming as a starter going forward. He filled in admirably, but Morris will likely return to the bench next season.
What future for Morris?
As noted above, the most likely scenario involves Morris returning to lead the Nuggets bench unit when Murray returns to the starting unit. This creates an interesting dilemma with Bones Hyland, who will most likely be back and playing alongside Morris in a bench role. Bones has played his best minutes at point guard, though, and neither is a positive perimeter defender, meaning there’s potential overlap in their roles. There are ways around this, like one from Morris or Bones starting next to Murray, moving Denver’s starting star to the shooting position; however, it creates similar defensive issues in Denver’s starting unit that the Nuggets may not be able to avoid.
Suffice to say, the whole roster around Jokić, Murray, Porter and Aaron Gordon is pretty fluid. Finding the right mix of pieces can be tricky, and while the most likely scenario involves Morris returning and pushing for a title, it’s possible he’s part of a deal to improve Denver’s perimeter defense issues. .
Either way, Morris has been a stable member of the Denver organization for a long time. He has two years left on a fairly affordable contract, and the Nuggets would surely prefer it to stay that way. His consistency helped Denver stay alive while Murray and Porter were sidelined. Imagine how useful he could be when Murray and Porter return.