Since Thanksgiving Eve, Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan has given Anthony Morrow the opportunity to expand his playing time. Thus far, Morrow’s exemplary shooting and capability to create space has reinforced Donovan’s decision —thus allowing A-Mo to play alongside several starters in an experimental Thunder lineup. Though his defensive wares have been heavily questioned, there is no doubt Morrow’s meticulous three-point sniping has compensated for his flaws, allowing him to make a positive net contribution. But is this just another quirky on-court science project deviously fabricated by Billy Donovan, or does NBA-veteran Anthony Morrow genuinely deserve more minutes?
Morrow has certainly had a strenuous journey making it into the NBA —as well as maintaining his career while in the league. Before going undrafted in 2008, Morrow spent four seasons playing for Georgia Tech. Occupying the role of wing, Morrow was a superb shooter from both mid and long-range to compliment his extremely quick release and superior athletic build. However, Morrow’s collegiate minutes were limited until his sophomore year. Although, the 6-5 guard received increased minutes after diligently working to improve defensively. These crucial strides occurred as Morrow participated in an extreme summer workout program.
During his sophomore year, a drastically improved Morrow would garner ACC honorable mention, in addition to becoming both Tech’s leading scorer and three-point marksman. In Tech’s ACC regular season games, Anthony Morrow averaged 15.0 points with an unbelievable 42.2 percent three-point shooting percentage, and managed a 92.5% free throw percentage. These statistics would continue to flow throughout his junior and senior years, with improvements on the defensive end and major refinements on his offensive turnover rate. Nevertheless, Morrow would still go undrafted at the end of his senior year, and was left praying a team would take a gamble on him and let him prove himself.
An Answered Prayer
And that’s EXACTLY what happened—Morrow’s prayers were answered. Soon after the draft, Morrow would join the Golden State Warriors for the coming 2008 NBA Summer League. Later that summer, Morrow officially signed with the Warriors. After a prayer-packed and nearly hopeless path into the league, A-Mo made history during his first game. In that first start, he shot 15-for-20, scored 37 points, and pulled away 11 rebounds against the Los Angeles Clippers, the most points EVER scored in a single game by an undrafted player in his rookie season. Though heavily valued by the Warriors organization during the following season, the Warriors would trade Morrow to the Nets, marking the beginning of Morrow’s unfortunate career-definingt roster musical-chair act.
The seasons after followed with trades to the Hawks, Mavericks, Pelicans, and then finally to his present home, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Likely left unmotivated and tired of the constant moving, Morrow fared a half-decent debut season with the Thunder. Playing 24.4 minutes per game, Morrow shot 43.3% from three-point range, and averaged 10.7 points per game across a total of 74 contests during the 2014-2015 season. Due to poor defensive talents, and the introduction of a new coach, Billy Donovan, Morrow’s minutes were limited his second season for the Thunder, averaging just 13.6 minutes per game.
Minutes for Morrow
Though all of the Thunder’s attention has been directed towards Russell Westbrook (resulting from his series of consecutive triple-doubles), Anthony Morrow is writing his own history. During these past six games, Morrow has averaged 24.3 minutes—almost playing above the 20 minute mark each game with the exception of his 19 minutes during the November 28th matchup against the Knicks. Throughout these 146 total minutes, Morrow has averaged 11.3 points per game, shooting exactly 50% from the field. In addition to this, Morrow has shot 51% from beyond the arc, resulting in 42 total points.
Defensively is where Morrow heavily struggles for the Thunder —a key factor in his past minutes restrictions. He is just plain out not speedy enough to reliably cover a fair number of the players he is matched with. That being his said, his teammates are left having to compensate for his defensive shortcoming and this usually ends in sticky situations. But somehow Donovan has made it work.
In the seven games that Morrow has played majority minutes in, the Thunder are 6-1. Now imagine this—in addition to their Morrow-induced record, the Thunder are averaging an outstanding 3.1 extra points per game with Morrow on court. His defensive plus/minus for the season thus far is a worrying -3.9, but when he isn’t sniping from three-point range, Morrow is heavily relied on to make space for Westbrook or Oladipo to viciously attack the rim.
So call it Donovan’s science project; but if Billy can keep scavenging creative approaches to use Morrow in any fashion, the Thunder can be one stout offensive scoring team.