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2015-16 Thunder player grades: Anthony Morrow's shooting went missing, still needed for OKC

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Anthony Morrow disappeared in 2015-16; will he be back?

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Full Name: Anthony Jarrad Morrow

Nickname: "Chocolate Reign," "A-Mo/Ammo"

Contract Status: Non-guaranteed for 2016-2017 season; $3,488,000 salary if not waived. Unrestricted free agent in 2017.

Interesting Fact: Is a self-proclaimed lip-sync genius.

Player History

Anthony Morrow grew up in North Carolina where he was named Mr. Basketball as a high school senior. He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, majoring in science, technology, and culture. During his time there, he set a school record for highest career free throw percentage (86.7%) and tied for third in 3 point field goals made (258). His senior season, he made an ACC best 44.8% of his 3 point shots.

After graduation, Morrow went undrafted, but joined the Golden State Warriors' summer league team. He was then signed to the team, and went on to start 17 games for the Warriors as a rookie. In his first start, he scored 37 points on 15-20 shooting (and grabbed 11 rebounds) against the LA Clippers, a mark that was good for the most points scored by an undrafted rookie. Morrow also became the first Warrior to lead the league in 3pt% at 46.7%. After the 2008-2009 season, Morrow again joined the Warriors' summer league team, setting a summer league record with a 47 point game.

During the 2009-2010 season, Morrow started 35 games for the Warriors, averaging 14.3 points on 47-46-87 shooting splits. At the time, he became only the fourth player to make at least 85 threes on greater than 45% shooting in back-to-back seasons in NBA history. Despite this success, however, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets for a second round pick.

During his time in New Jersey, Morrow continued to be an offensive spark from deep, and at one point had the second highest career 3pt% in NBA history behind Steve Kerr. However, after two relatively successful seasons with the Nets, Morrow was traded to Atlanta as a piece of the trade for Joe Johnson. His time with the Hawks was short, as he played only 24 games before being traded to Dallas. In Dallas, he found himself riding out the season on the bench.

A-Mo was able to re-spark his career with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013. During that season, he played in 76 games and shot 45% from deep. Sam Presti saw the chance to pick up reliable shooting following that season, and signed Morrow to a 3-year contract.

In his first season with the Thunder, Morrow played the 3rd most minutes and second most games of his career. As a result, he converted 141 3pt shots, the most of his career. He finished the season shooting 43% from deep. During the injury plagued season, he was relied on early as a scorer, as many of the players who were capable of scoring in bunches were injured. When Kevin Durant was injured, Morrow played a big part in stepping up to fill the role of SF. His highlight game was in a shootout against the Dallas Mavericks in which he scored 32 points in 29 minutes (OKC lost 135-131 in regulation).

Pre-Season Expectation

With the hiring of Billy Donovan, shooting was expected to be a hot commodity in Oklahoma City. After Morrow's successful first season with the Thunder, many expected his role to increase, potentially with him moving to the starting lineup. At the least, Morrow was expected to play a part as the spark off the bench. Prior to the season starting, Morrow mentioned that he had actually shortened the release on his shot, going from the fastest gun in the west to the fastest gun anywhere. With a healthy squad, he should have had ample open opportunities.

Regular Season Grade: N

(Quick Note on grading: I decided that the traditional letter grading is too arbitrary and subjective, so I switched to a different scale that is sometimes used. Here are the possible grades: E - Excellent, S - Satisfactory, N - Needed improvement, U - Unsatisfactory. This allows me to assign letters that are inherently meaningful)

Morrow saw his minutes cut in half from last season to this season. As a result, he seemed to regress in several key areas. He shot a mediocre 38.7 (well below his career mark) from deep, and posted a -3.2 defensive box plus minus. The reason for his lack of minutes was obvious; his defense simply didn't cut it in the new defensive scheme implemented by Coach Donovan. In a scheme requiring wings to fight over screens and recover quickly, Morrow didn't have the foot quickness or general athleticism to be effective. This was especially disappointing considering that the 2014-2015 season was his career best on the defensive end.

However, it is important to note that he was still effective in certain situations. Considering how poorly the bench played all season, he was usually not in a situation that would contribute to his success. Morrow posted a positive NetRtg when paired with any of the starting players, but posted a negative NetRtg when paired with almost every bench player. Additionally, the two best pairings by NetRtg included Morrow. The best two man lineup on the team was Andre Roberson and Anthony Morrow, posting a NetRtg of +18.5 on the season.

Unfortunately, Morrow simply couldn't get the playing time require to perform consistently, and finished the season with his lowest 3pt attempt total in any season that played significant minutes.

Best Regular Season Game:

In a forgettable loss to the Sacramento Kings, Morrow notched his only 20 point game of the season. On 8 of 11 shooting, including 3 of 6 from deep, Morrow provided a spark while replacing Kevin Durant in the starting lineup. He also notched a steal and a rebound, but largely impacted the game only by his shooting. He did hit a nifty hook shot in the paint, though.

Post Season Grade: U

Morrow played in 14 of the Thunder's 18 post-season games, averaging only 5.4 minutes per game. His most valued trait (3 point shooting) wasn't effective, as he only shot 35.7% from deep. This likely was a result of being out of rhythm. On the defensive end, teams were able to take advantage of him regularly. He was rarely played in the right matchups, being forced to guard quicker players. When OKC would choose to intentionally foul, he wasn't inserted as an offensive spark.  Generally, he became part of the garbage time crew.

This was especially disappointing as it was Morrow's first time to make the playoffs. Rather than being a spark in a deep playoff run, he was forced to watch from the bench. However, he was still able to get some playoff experience that was all too long in coming.

Best Post Season Game:

In a clos-out attempt in game 5 against the Warriors, the OKC wing lineup found itself in foul trouble, forcing Donovan to call on Morrow. Morrow stepped up, scoring 10 points (his only double digit game of the playoffs) on 4 of 4 shooting (including 2 of 2 from deep).

Included in the game was one of the craziest shots of the playoffs.

Future Expectations

It's hard to know what to expect from Morrow in the future. It's very possible that he won't be with the team, though I fully expect OKC to keep him on for next season. After a great first season with the Thunder, his second season was quite disappointing. But here's what I would like to see from him:

  • Used as an offensive spark in "safe situations" (i.e., when we intentionally foul or at end of halves)
  • Find a place within the small groups, especially with Russ-Roberson-Durant-Adams. That group can hide his defense and really thrive on offense.
  • Go back to his DRPM of his first season in OKC, when he actually finished with a positive rating.
  • Go Nuclear during a bench celebration after a Roberson to Adams alley-oop (I'm not sure which of these things is less likely)