Last season Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier each proved that they are key rotation players on a contending team. Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving are returning to a team that also features critical veterans in Al Horford and Marcus Smart. Sprinkle in some Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis, and Semi Ojeleye and you’re not left with a lot of minutes.
So where does Marcus Morris fit into this equation?
You are welcome to add up the math as you see fit in the comments below, but Ben Rohrbach added up the minutes for his Patreon site (just $1 a month, folks). So you’ll have to go there to see it.
I did pull his conclusion to share with you here:
Let’s apply this to Morris. Say he plays 20 minutes a night for 70 games — a lower average, but only slightly fewer total minutes (1,400) than last season, when he missed 28 games battling minor knee pain. That leaves the remaining 608 frontcourt minutes for Guerschon Yabusele and rookie Robert Williams III — in the ballpark of the 731 that Yabu and Greg Monroe played last year. And because Morris can play three positions, an injury to anyone in the frontcourt and/or underperformance from Ojeleye, Yabu or Williams would push him further into the fold.
In other words, worries over Morris’ fit this coming season are overblown.
While I don’t have any major quibbles with Ben’s math and understand his overall point, I don’t necessarily trust that Marcus will be fine with 20 minutes a night. He peaked at 35.7 minutes a game with the Pistons and was down to 26.8 last year. He hasn’t been below 20 minutes per game since his 3rd year in the league (2012). And for what it’s worth, it’s a contract season for Morris after taking a discount to play with his brother Markieff in Phoenix.
Morris is wonderful “insurance” against injuries to key players and Brad Stevens is going to try to keep his veterans’ minutes low. In addition, Morris is a very useful matchup option in the playoffs. He’s also apparently pretty popular in the locker room and a good veteran to have around (provided he’s happy).
Perhaps the chance to play on a title contender is enough for Morris put aside whatever healthy ego he has and accept a reduced role (and let’s face it, to be successful in the NBA you have to have a lot of confidence, regardless of analytics). So maybe it could all work out fine.
Or maybe it won’t. He’s a free agent after this season and might want more minutes to prove his worth. It is easy to say he should play the reduced role with a smile and help the team contend for a title, but that’s easier said than done for a competitor who’s proven his worth in this league. There’s also the issue of the luxury tax; Morris is set to make around $5M next season with the Celtics about $3M over the tax line.
What if Semi Ojeleye starts knocking down consistent 3’s and Robert Williams or Yabu prove that they deserve some minutes as well? Will Morris accept being benched without complaint? I don’t necessarily think he’d become a distraction, but who really knows anymore (the weirdness of the NBA has me considering every possible outcome)?
Granted, these are first world problems and probably much ado about nothing, but it is worth considering moving forward (even before discussing the salary tax implications of the roster construction as a whole).
So what do you think? Are there still minutes and a defined role available for Marcus Morris?