In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s installment centers on Iowa State point guard Monte Morris.
Monte Morris had an undeniably productive college career. He played in 140 games in his 4 year career and helped to lead his team to at least 23 wins in each of those seasons. The Cyclones also landed three conference tournament championships and two sweet sixteen appearances during Morris’ tenure. He improved as a scorer each season and was always one of the most prominent ball handlers in the NCAA. On the face of his collegiate resume alone one might think that he would at least be knocking on the door of the first round of the draft but many mocks current have him going later in the second round.
Morris never averaged more than 2 turnovers per 40 minutes in his collegiate career and that is astonishing when you considered that he basically had all of the ball handling responsibilities for Iowa St. Last season he average 5.71 assists per turnover; for all players in the NCAA that average 5 assists or more the next best mark was 3.77 (Eric Garcia, Wofford). He lead the NCAA in assists per turnover in 3 of his 4 seasons.
He shot better than 35% from 3-point range all 4 seasons even as his volume increased each year. His shot probably needs to be cleaned up a little if he is going to be able to extend it to the NBA 3-point line. But he is a heads-up point guard that sees the entire floor and is never afraid to attack with dribble penetration. He is excellent in transition and loves to push the pace. And as his assist-to-turnover rate would suggest he never telegraphs a pass.
The biggest adjustment he will have to make if he is going to become a legitimate NBA point guard is in becoming more versatile as an offensive player. At Iowa St he was allowed to possess the basket ball a lot (like ALL the time) and sometimes the results ended up being that he would over-dribble on some possessions. He will likely never to be good enough to have that type of responsibility at the next level so he will need to learn how to do other things such as move without the basketball.
Morris lacks the ideal size to be a plus defender at the NBA level, but he plays with a lot of IQ on the defense end and makes himself impressively long when jumping passing lanes or challenging shots. He gets the most out of what size he does have (6’1 175 lbs). He is aggressive and is excellent jumping passing lanes.
His plays with a lot of effort and intensity but his defensive techniques are sometimes lacking. He does not always recover after gambling and missing and at times he is not able to slide laterally as a defender. Otherwise he seems pretty solid playing as a team defender and works constantly offer help defense when a teammate is struggling to defend at the point of attack.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
From a culture and personality standpoint, you might not be able to find a player in this draft class that is an obviously better fit. And the Hawks need to be looking to add offensive creators with any roster spot that is available to them. But if the goal is to develop a future back up to Dennis Schroder, the Hawks would do better to find someone that offers a different physical profile. Morris and Schroder are almost exactly the same size (apart from Schroder having more length) and both play as offense first players that might consistently struggle when defending the more physical point guards in the league.
There is plenty to admire and enjoy about Morris as a basketball player and there is certainly value in having players that can take care of the basketball. So I have little doubt that Morris will find his way into being a legitimate NBA point guard at some point in the future. But he might have to persevere through a couple of seasons being a fringe roster player before he finds the right situation with an organization to settle in and try to establish himself as a reliable back up point guard in the league.