Editor’s Note: As the season gets closer, our Silver Screen and Roll staff is going to be taking a closer look back at every player on the Lakers for a refresher on stuff we may have forgotten during quarantine. Think of this as like the 30 second clip reminding you of what happened during the current season of your favorite TV show that rolls right before the latest episode starts. Today, let’s recall what was up with Markieff Morris.
Did you forget Markieff Morris was on the Lakers? If so, don’t feel bad, because you’re probably not the only one. Morris was only a member of the team for eight games before the world went up in flames and the NBA season stopped, playing just 118 minutes for the team so far. So he, as much as anyone, is warranting of a refresher on just what was going on with him before basketball went away.
The Lakers picked up Morris after he was bought out by the Detroit Pistons following the trade deadline, cutting the injured (and likely done for the year) DeMarcus Cousins to make a roster spot for him. Morris soon became a part of Frank Vogel’s rotation, and averaged 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds while making 14 of his 36 shots as a Laker so far.
The front office acquired Morris to give Vogel another long, rangy defender to throw at opposing wings or small-ball bigs, as well as to provide the Lakers some scoring punch off of the bench, and so far the results in his limited minutes have been mixed.
How limited of minutes are we talking about? Limited enough that literally all of his baskets as a Laker fit into a less-than-two-minute highlight video:
People forget Markieff Morris is a LAKERpic.twitter.com/wF5pQexHFi— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) June 21, 2020
Still, solely looking at the advanced numbers, you might not be encouraged by what Morris has brought. Since the trade, the Lakers have been nearly 20 points worse per 100 possessions when he plays than they are when he sits, but all that really demonstrates is the limitations of solely using analytics to make determinations about players when there is only a small sample size.
Morris played his second-most minutes as a Laker (17) in the team’s listless loss to the Grizzlies, a game in which hardly anyone showed up to play and the purple and gold lost by 17, their third-worst defeat of the season. Even in that game, though, Morris gave an early demonstration of the type of fight and grit that the Lakers (in part) brought him in for, picking up a technical for tussling with Memphis after a hard foul under the basket against Dwight Howard.
Despite that, the night was still a horrible loss. Everyone else on the team had played enough minutes to keep their stats mostly intact, but that game (in conjunction with another bad showing by the whole team soon after against the Philadelphia 76ers) completely nuked Morris’ net rating. In the six games he’s played for L.A. outside of those two, Morris has posted a net rating of -1.87. A minus, but only just so.
The potentially good news that small sample-size theater has provided, however, was Morris’ game against the Clippers, because it’s possibly indicative of exactly the type of role the Lakers would want him to play in the playoffs.
Against L.A.’s cross-hall rivals, Morris played 16 minutes off the bench and finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds, but most notable was the small-ball he allowed the Lakers to play. His ability to shift to center so that Kyle Kuzma didn’t have to is valuable, as is him doing a much stronger job of the dirty work in the paint than Kuzma has been able to this season.
His defense — and the spacing Morris allowed the Lakers to play with down the stretch — were reflected in his overall impact, as the Lakers outscored the Clippers at a rate that would have equaled 21.6 points per 100 possessions while he was on the floor. That was the second-best net rating on the team that day, and just another indicator that the Lakers may have gotten the superior Morris twin for free, while the Clippers had to give up assets for theirs:
Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don't. pic.twitter.com/6xTQdyHfmw— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) June 21, 2020
What he showed against the Clippers is the type of stuff the Lakers will need from Morris moving forward — some solid defense, hustle and grit, as well the strength and versatility to allow them to go extra small — whether it’s against his twin brother Marcus’ team or any other contenders the Lakers may face. If he brings it, they may not actually sweep the Clips like he predicted in a bout of trash talk with his twin, but the Lakers will have another weapon to use in that series. For a guy they picked up for free off the scrap heap, you can’t ask for much more than that.