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Markieff Morris: What the Thunder should expect from their new power forward

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For the uninitiated, a guide to Markieff Morris.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

By seven minutes, Markieff Morris is the older Morris twin.

Perhaps this is one early reason why he’s a bit different from his identical twin, Marcus. For all their genetic similarities, there are differences in how they play basketball.

Marcus is the slightly smaller (by one inch and ten pounds), quicker, more scoring-focused of the twins.

Markieff is the slightly larger, stronger, more rebounding and defensive-minded of the twins.

It’s remarkable what those small differences can do, but Marcus has spent the majority of his career as a wing, whereas Markieff has spent the majority of his career as a more traditional forward.

And they say football is a game of inches...

On Wednesday, the Thunder officially signed Markieff Morris. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Morris is slated to play a ‘significant role’ with the team.

This, almost certainly, means Morris will take minutes from OKC Thunder forward Patrick Patterson, who has just had a rough season as well as failed to consistently live up to expectations when he was signed two years ago.

With ‘Keef” slated to play a prominent role with the Thunder, what are we to expect from him?

It’s time we become properly acquainted.

The Good: Spot Up, post Up

Though not a world-beater, Morris is a respectable catch and shoot threat, hitting right at 34% of wide open 3’s. This is not a number that’s going to make anyone’s eyeballs fall out, but it’s important because this is a player who butters his bread on the low block. This number represents versatility, not mastery. Shooting 34% while being Morris’ size is ripe for pick and pop opportunities with Schröder that could look a whole lot like this:

Because you are brilliant, I know you’re already one step ahead of me.

A Markieff/Schröder pick and pop combo could be a valuable bench weapon, especially when Morris’ minutes replace Patterson’s minutes. Morris is better than Patterson in almost every metric.

Morris is a strong low-block player. Though he won’t get many touches there when playing next to Nerlens Noel, this could be a very enticing option for Billy Donovan running a small-ball lineup of Russ, Schröder, PG, Grant, and Morris.

Morris scores over 1 point per post-up possession, good for the 72% percentile in the league, per Synergy Sports.

Or perhaps a more pretty example:

This threat is vitally important, as it assures that teams can’t easily play the matchup game against the Thunder anymore. In situations where Noel or Adams are being dragged to the perimeter or Patterson is getting bullied inside, the remedy is simple: sub in Markieff. What this does for a team can’t be overstated. It is another defense mechanism ensuring the Thunder personnel can’t easily be played off the floor by way of strategy.

The Rough: Shot selection

Choosing shots is hard.

Choosing shots with lackluster teammates is even harder. Being surrounded by teammates or a system that doesn’t meet certain standards sometimes signals certain personality types to take inadvisable shots in search of salvaging the offense.

I imagine playing in Phoenix or Washington could do that to you.

Morris’ context matters. His teammates are basically standing still, giving him room to operate down low. It’s a bit curious as to why Morris doesn’t try to go low and finish inside. Perhaps the fashion of step backs and big men who can shoot is too much to resist.

Here, Morris should’ve passed the ball through to Kelly Oubre for the open look. Again, it’s often forgotten hot much of shot selection can be determined by those you play with. Morris, for all we know, may feel a scoring burden of sorts with the second unit, believing that if he doesn’t do his part, they won’t score. It’s not hard to imagine how this can play into the decision on makes on the court.

Hopefully by spending time with a player like Schröder, Morris will feel settled and able to relax within the offense, which hopefully leads to better shots. More importantly, playing along side Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Morris can trust that they will find him for open looks instead of having to work for his own shots.

Conclusion

Morris is a fine defender, average shooter, good scorer, good rebounder, but with some shot selection worries. As a bench player, he’s highly valuable, especially when he is the upgrade to Patrick Patterson.

With Morris, the Thunder are offered supreme versatility, now able to play true small ball lineups when earlier, they could not. Heading into the last stretch and eventually the playoffs, the Thunder improved their team with one move that could have a sizeable payout: the ability to change and adapt with more fluidity than any other point in this season. In the modern NBA, being a chameleon is the holy grail. Many seek it, and few will find it.

The Thunder found their little version of it, and it could make all the difference.

Poll

Is Markieff Morris a game-changer for the Thunder as they head toward the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Yes - huge upgrade
    (243 votes)
  • 53%
    Possibly - depends on how he integrates
    (304 votes)
  • 3%
    Unlikely - he’s not substantially better than Patterson
    (17 votes)
  • 0%
    No - His negatives undermine his positives
    (1 vote)
565 votes total Vote Now