Denver Nuggets: Why Monte Morris is my favorite player
I invented a drinking game for Denver Nuggets games a few years ago, I call it the Monte Morris. The rules are simple: every time Big Game Tae hits a sweet little mid-ranger (hesi pull-up jimbo, if you will), you take a shot.
While I’ve never done it myself, I can’t imagine it’d end well because he’s the nearest thing to automatic from there. Monte is one of the sweetest shooters I’ve ever seen.
I remember watching the 2017 NBA Draft live, the Markelle Fultz/Jayson Tatum draft, and watching it deep into the second round.
While the first round of every draft gets the headlines, I love the second round because you never know if the player getting picked during a Taco Bell commercial is a future MVP or if he’ll even come to the league. For every one Nikola Jokic, there are about 100 Matthias Lessorts.
Late in the second round of the draft, the analysts were talking about who’s still left on the board. At this stage, the highlights go from a five-minute video package to two sentences. Most of the time, the guys on the TV are just talking about the biggest news earlier in the draft.
Monte Morris, who was the 51st pick in the 2017 Draft, flashed across the screen and it mentioned his stellar assist-to-turnover ratio. Monte set the NCAA record for assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.65. He also had four of the top seven single-season assist-to-turnover ratios ever in college basketball (since they started tracking the stat in 2008).
I thought to myself: “hang on, that isn’t some potential upside or ‘if he learns to shoot he’ll be good’ prospect. That’s a legit skill and not only is he good, he’s the best.”
Fast forward five seasons and Morris is now starting (albeit in place of the injured Jamal Murray) for a playoff team and is one of the best distributors in the league. While he might have been the 51st player selected, he’s sixth in the 2017 Draft in Win Shares, sitting behind Jarrett Allen, Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum, John Collins, and Donovan Mitchell.
This season, Monte Morris is averaging 12.7 points and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 39 percent from the 3-point line. He’s in the 75th percentile among all guards in terms of points per 100 shot attempts and his 8.1 turnover percentage is behind only Terry Rozier, Tyrese Maxey, and Tyus Jones per Cleaning the Glass (min. 1,000 minutes).
While he might be a career backup guard, he has done an excellent job at filling the starting role for a team that is making some serious noise in the Western Conference.
Monte is blending his off-the-dribble game with Nikola Jokic‘s gargantuan usage. He’s not always the one with the ball in his hands but he’s finding ways of maximising himself with back cuts and spot-ups around the Big Honey.
In Steph Curry’s first MVP season, he drew headlines with his scorching hot 3-point shooting but it was his ability to make shots at the rim that really impressed. Like Monte, Steph is usually the smallest player on the court, but he was able to finish at the rim better than most centers.
When Monte shares the court with Jokic, he’s hitting 71 percent of his shots at the rim according to Stadium Speak’s new Two-Man Game app. That 71 percent is also removing transition baskets which would only help most guards in this situation given how much easier those shots are.
Since defenders know that he’s a solid scorer from anywhere on the court, it really opens up his passing game: his bread and butter. I don’t want to get stuck on hyperbole too much but it’s almost Chris Paul-esque… CP3 has his snake dribble into a mid-ranger move that not only gives him free looks but the opportunity to pass to a cutter or spot-up shooter.
He’s also only going to boost the effectiveness of the Denver Nuggets bench unit that looks like it’s really found something in the past few weeks.
Oh, and if you like the way he plays, he also has the nickname Big Game Tae and it’s oh so well deserved. He’s the ideal complementary player for the Denver Nuggets but as we get further into his career, he’s becoming one of the better closers in the league.
The buzzer-beater right before the All-Star break against the Golden State Warriors draws all the headlines but he has consistently been Big Game Tae when the Denver Nuggets need it.
He has taken the third-most shots in “clutch” moments when using NBA.com’s clutch data and he’s a Denver Nuggets-best plus-29 in these moments while draining half of all his shots, a figure only eclipsed by Aaron Gordon.
Monte Morris isn’t the best player on the Denver Nuggets and he probably never will. His game has shades of Chris Paul but he probably won’t make the Hall of Fame.
Despite all this, he’s one of the most efficient players in the entire NBA and luckily for his fans, he’s going to be doing what he does for a very long time in the league.
Let’s spend this time appreciating how well he’s dicing up defenses and to anyone out there that wants to play the drinking game from earlier, I wish you the best of luck.