Through their first 14 games, veteran Marcus Morris has proved the only constant for the New York Knicks, earning every penny.
The New York Knicks didn’t sign Kevin Durant. They didn’t sign Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard. Hell, they didn’t even sign Tobias Harris. But they did sign Marcus Morris. And to start the year, it’s paying off largely.
This may sound strange, but there’s an argument that Morris has been the Knicks’ best player so far this season.
For all the skepticism that the Knicks received for investing $15 million dollars to a guy best fit for a contender, fans and the players alike have grown to love the Morris addition.
Not only is he leading the team in scoring, but he’s maintained a level of consistency that is seemingly irreplaceable on a young team. In general, Morris has fit to this Knicks team like a glove.
All the previous talk about how his arrival would eat up Kevin Knox’s minutes has faded. Now, Morris is thought of by both the fans and the locker room as the season’s starter until further notice (potential trade).
Through 14 games, he’s averaging a team-high 18.6 points on an also club-leading 44 percent shooting from deep. He’s played hard-nosed, grit-to-the-grindstone basketball night in and night out for New York.
A look at his start to the year and why he’s not received nearly as much credit as is due:
Setting the Example
There are two kinds of Knicks fans; well, regarding the topic at hand.
You either mocked Morris’s preseason talk about bringing back toughness and grit to Madison Square Garden or you took a leap of faith and bought in.
And no, the New York team we’ve seen play in Madison Square Garden hasn’t remotely resembled those from the days of glory.
But Morris himself? He’s held up his end of the bargain. The 6-foot-8 small forward has shown up every night, played hard and displayed the toughness he advertised.
From day one, he was aggressive, trying to get in the head of opponents.
Marcus Morris got ejected for purposely hitting Justin Anderson in the head with the ball 😳 pic.twitter.com/mOEDsajWCH
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 8, 2019
Now, that might not be what one defines as toughness, but Morris has replicated plays like this and stood his ground in each of the Knicks games this season.
To speak to his physicality, Morris has collected 42 personal fouls and is on pace for a career-high year in technical fouls, with five, already through 14 games.
As a result? We’ve seen a mentality shift in this locker room. They play hard (most nights) and command respect (even if only for three quarters) when playing at home. I have no doubt Morris has had some kind of influence on Frank Ntilikina’s recent boost in confidence.
When else have you ever heard the guard call himself a dog?
Morris is standing for what the Knicks of old believed in. And he’s setting the example for the Knicks of new, game by game, night by night.
Firing On All Cylinders
There’s no arguing Morris has been New York’s best player on offense from a scoring standpoint. I mean literally, he’s leading the team in points per game.
Morris’s shot has morphed into a three-point cannon the likes of which even small level explosives don’t compare. He’s shooting a career-high 46 percent from behind-the-arc and he’s made 35-of-78 attempts.
That puts him on track for a 205 season total, which are guard numbers from three. And nearly 60 more connected shots from deep than his 146 career-high.
Per Basketball-Reference, only 11 players have made 34 or more threes thus far. Of them, Morris leads the pack in three-point percentage and is dead last in shots attempted.
Those 11 players include guys like James Harden, Kemba Walker, Damien Lillard, Trae Young and rising sharpshooter Luke Kennard. Yeah, Morris’s three-ball is in season.
So next time you’re watching the Knicks, and start to question his shot selection, don’t. The nine-year vet has done it all for the Knicks on the offensive end, lest pass the ball.
But that’s fine because every team needs a guy who demands the rock. A guy who can be asked for a basket when the hot hand runs cold. In New York, it’s Marcus Morris.
We all saw his game-winner against the Dallas Mavericks.
— NEW YORK KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) November 16, 2019
It’s that shot that perfectly encapsulates just what his role is within this team. And it speaks volumes to his early-season success.
And we all saw his revenge game against the Boston Celtics, a game won by a Jayson Tatum game-winner over rookie Knicks guard RJ Barrett.
It may sound backward, but maybe an iso-heavy talent is beneficial to younger guys still going through the growing pains of finding their shot. It hasn’t negatively played on their ability to pass the ball yet. Per NBA.com, the Knicks are a top-10 team in terms of moving the ball at 298.8 passes nightly.
And if the team can’t get used to playing with someone who can score at a high level, how will they adapt when one of Barrett or Knox (inevitably) averages 20 a night?
It’d be another conversation if Morris were a below-average defender, but he’s above average when it comes to this team. And he’s got a history in the postseason guarding some of the league’s best, including LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s why at the end of games, provided it’s still within reach for New York, you’ll see Morris on the floor. He leads the team in Defensive Win Shares (a measly 0.3, but still) and is second only to Mitchell Robinson in overall Win Shares (0.7), per B/R Reference.
Offensively, Morris has been a walking bucket for New York. And he’s done his best at preventing any opposing team’s best player from performing so on the defensive end.
Speaking Marcus Morris, he’s proved the only constant for this young New York Knicks team amidst their poor start to the year.
Continuing to play him means continuing to score the ball at a high level and continuing to set an example for the young guys. And it’s time that Knicks’ fans recognized such.