3 min read

#ThunderRank: No. 11 – Anthony Morrow

#ThunderRank – A look at the top 17 players for the Thunder and how their seasons might shake outPlayer Summary

When the Oklahoma City Thunder first signed Anthony Morrow two seasons ago, many thought he was the missing piece they needed to help space the floor for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Someone that would causes defenses to play “pick your poison” between giving up two points or three points. Unfortunately, we sometimes tend to forget there are two sides to a basketball court, and Morrow, was not very good at the defensive side of things.

For someone who is a career 42.5% 3-point shooter, there had to be a reason why he had been on 5 teams in his first 7 seasons before joining the Thunder. In this shooting-starved league, someone with Morrow’s prowess would definitely be coveted. In addition, he’s also one of the best chemistry/locker room guys in the league. But then he joins your team and you slowly figure out why he’s been so expendable. He’s a one-trick pony, and a surprisingly nonathletic one at that. And in an NBA that values versatility, having someone that is only great at one thing, but poor in many other things can be a detriment to the team.

But what I find even more frustrating, is the fact that two coaches (Scott Brooks and Billy Donovan) have yet to find a way to exploit such a weapon while minimizing his weaknesses. Maybe Donovan, with a full season’s worth of data and a full offseason can finally find a way to make the threat of Morrow useful on the court. With so little shooting on the Thunder’s roster, they may have no choice but to find a way to get Morrow out on the court for certain stretches in a game.

2015-16 Statistics

68 GP, 13.6 mins, 5.6 pts, 0.9 rebs, 0.4 asts, 0.3 stls, 40.8% FG, 38.7% 3pt FG, 74.4% FT

Best-Case Scenario

Morrow has an extremely useful skill as a floor spacing 3-point shooter. For Westbrook and Victor Oladipo to operate to their maximum, they need space out there on the floor. Without a floor spacer out there, defenses will set up around the paint and make life difficult for the Thunder’s talented backcourt. If Donovan can somehow find a way to have Morrow out there when those two are also out there, it would work wonders for the offense. The key is finding the right time to put Morrow in the game while minimizing the effect of Morrow’s deficiency in other aspects of the game.

Two seasons ago, Morrow had one of the best seasons of his career. The Thunder were in desperate need of shooting and offense with Durant (and later Ibaka) being out with injury. Morrow stepped his game up, scoring 10.7 ppg on 43.4% shooting from the 3-point line. He was playable on defense and helped out on the boards. That is the Morrow the team needs this season. Someone that will make defenses pay for loading up on Westbrook and Oladipo.

Worst-Case Scenario

The Morrow the Thunder got last season was one that struggled in every aspect of the game, to include shooting (in comparison to his previous seasons). Morrow suffered through one of his worst seasons, but it didn’t affect the Thunder much as they stayed relatively healthy throughout the year. But if Morrow goes through one of those seasons again, he will likely find himself glued to the bench for much of the game. And the Thunder will be without a floor spacer they so desperately need.

Percentage that he will be traded sometime this season:

50% – Morrow is on an extremely friendly contract that is expiring. Those are always in high demand around the trade deadline. In addition, he’s a serviceable player. Someone that could give a team something they lack. With Alex Abrines on the roster, the Thunder may decide it’s better to get something for Morrow than let him walk after the season.

Morrow’s Season Preview

There’s a simplicity to predicting Morrow’s upcoming season. Shoot at a 38% clip or higher from deep and play defense decently enough to stay on the floor, and Morrow becomes one of our best role players. Shoot the ball at a 37% or lower clip and get abused on defense, and his season from last year repeats itself. Its as simple as that.

Morrow lost nearly 11 minutes of playing time from 2013-14 to 2014-15. He needs to be on the court to be effective. No matter how great of a shooter you are, you need a little bit of time to get warmed up. But if your play on the court dictates that you can’t stay on the floor for more than 5 minutes at a time, then your one strength likely becomes muted. The problem is the Thunder can’t afford to have a defensive sieve in the backcourt or wing.

I see Donovan finding some way to incorporate Morrow into the rotation early in the season. Having Morrow out there with the bench unit will give Cameron Payne and Enes Kanter a little bit more space to operate with. But as the season progresses, I see Morrow’s minutes dwindling as the Thunder give more playing time to Abrines.