Darius Morris: A Pure Point Guard
There are a lot of great point guards in the NBA right now, but there are only four who can consistently get you ten dimes a game, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo. As the position has evolved, many teams are seeking the point guard that can hit the three, but historically, the great ones have always gotten you double digit assists. As we continuously label and relabel the position, different systems have different wants and needs, but to me, first and foremost, I want a guy that can distribute the ball.
In essence, we have the combo point guard, the pass first point guard and the shoot first point, but what teams really want is the win first point guard. Darius Morris is the kind of player that makes everyone around him better, and if you followed Michigan this year during the regular season and in the NCAA Tournament, you know that coming within one basket of taking defending champion Duke off the grid is nothing short of miraculous.
Morris has the ability to score 20 every game he plays in, but chooses to run the offense instead. His decision making ability is solid, but may be misunderstood, simply because he doesn't have the options that Brandon Knight and the other point guard prospects do.
Some point guards limit their passing to their buddies or the guy most apt to score, but Darius Morris does not discriminate. He seems to leave that up to the coaches. If you're in the game and open, you better be ready. On countless occasions this year, and sometimes while he was 30 feet from the hoop, you'd see that right hand pick up the dribble and throw a Roger Clemens fastball to a wide open Michigan player underneath. Few pros can do this well, so when I see a twenty year old doing it, the future looks very bright.
What's even more exciting for the puritans of the game like myself, is watching Morris on the fast break. His look away passes are like Magic, and instead of beating guys with athleticism; he beats them with guile. Someone taught this kid to play the game the right way, because not only does he take what the defense gives him, but he allows his team to score in the simplest manner possible, As Red Holzman once preached, he “gets the ball to the open man.”
Another thing Morris does that is basic but successful is, he gets the ball to the player that's hot. Any player that has hit a couple of shots in a row, can be assured that the kid is looking for him. He has no problem deferring to anyone that can put the ball in the hole. This maximizes an offense's potential as any baller knows that shooting percentages and stats don't matter when someone's hot, and no one in college basketball today knows that better than Morris. His basketball IQ is off the charts.
A huge advantage for Morris is his size at the point guard position. At 6'4, he has the ability to beat his defender to the spot and rise up for quick pull up jumpers and passes. Usually this happens in the middle of the court, where he'll penetrate and pull up at the elbow. If he develops a better three point shot, this move will always be available to him at the next level. At Michigan, whenever his teams needed a basket, this has been his signature move. His mid-range game is already at a very high level, and the fact that he doesn't finish with a Jordanesque dunk isn't a problem, because he's a point guard and it allows him to stay in control and pass the ball at the last possible second. He's always in control of what he needs to accomplish.
Another major strength of Morris is something you see in players at the tail end of their career, is his ability to change speeds. He has the ability to start fast on a dribble drive, slow down and then finish fast. He does this to keep the defender on his heels and to create space. If you consistently beat guys with speed, what do you do when you play a faster player? Like Greg Maddux did on the pitchers mound in his prime, Darius Morris is constantly changing his speeds and just as important, the cadence on his dribble. This prevents him from being pick pocketed and allows him to get wherever he wants to on the court.
The key to Morris's value to a professional team is clearly his ball distribution. Most assist guys are pass first point guards, because they can't score or at least not at a high enough level. That's not the case with Darius as he could start for quite a few teams as a shooting guard. The fact that he can score so well should make him an even better player in the pro's, as he's capable of both, but mentally just plays the position the right way naturally. No one had to convert him.
Defensively, he has the knack of being in the right place at the right time. He has a sixth sense when it comes to players in trouble and gravitates to the spot on the floor where turnovers and bad passes occur. He's tall enough to bother most point guard's perimeter shots, and stays with them nicely on dribble drives as well.
There are two things Darius needs to work on to have a solid start to his NBA career. Number one, he needs to get in the gym and hit the weights. For a guy under 200 pounds, he is surprisingly unmovable on his drives and forays to the hoop. On incidental contact, he just doesn't' get knocked off the ball. In order to have that same success in the pro's he's going to need to add about 15 pounds as everyone is bigger and faster.
He also needs to develop a three point shot as soon as possible. I would recommend the Gilbert Arenas workout where he practices taking three point shots one handed. This increases a players range, while also teaching them to keep the elbow straight as they can't rely on the off hand to balance the ball. Morris also squares up a little too much on his shots, so a tilt to the side Ala Larry Bird should help his percentages.
Overall, the prospect for a successful pro career is in the offing for Morris. He has the ability to be a solid assist guy at the next level, and if he develops that aforementioned three point shot, a high caliber performer in a point guard rich league. He reminds me of Michael Ray Richardson without the baggage. In fact, with his attitude and leadership skills, he has a chance to be the biggest sleeper in the entire 2011 draft.
Its about time someone mentions Morris..
This draft is Full of guys that will be better in the pros
yeah i agree rudeboy, i hear that this draft is soooo weak, and obviously superstar wise, but as I put my mock together I feel like it has a lot of potential to put a lot of rotation guys in the league. Also, with Morris, I dont know man, he's put really nice stats and I haven't seen a ton of him but when he played again Illinois (my fave team) he played very selfishly and looked for his own shot first everytime and made bad plays in crunch time...we'll see, I think he really could develop into a nice player, I think the Andre Miller comparisons are fair
knicks need a C, need size, need rebounding, but they badly lack playmaking skills too and when u have 2 of the best finishers in the game...
Great improvement, great transitionning to the point with still room, really has some dre miller in his skill set.
3rd Morris in the top 20 in my opinion.
As a Michigan fan I didn't like the decision,and early on I didn't understand it. But this is a buisness,and he has a better shot leaving now than he would the next. He runs the offense and doesn't stray from it,good court vision,great passer and a good mid range game. It is about 25-35 players that can be drafted and be rotation guys right away. Good team building draft for playoff teams and contending teams
Knicks can always sign Dalembert to the mid level, need a PG thats going to run the D'antoni system in the future. This kid can learn some from Billups who's a big PG too.