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Marcus Morris An Early Candidate for 6th Man of the Year

Marcus Morris is a more efficient player this season. But what is at the root of his efficient play?

Recently, the Houdini team wrote about why Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris is the teams early season MVP. A week later, Morris is still riding the wave of offensive efficiency. If the season ended today, Morris would be a top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Of bench players who played more than 5 games so far, he ranks 6th and 7th in rebounding and scoring. Why so efficient? A lot of his early success can be attributed to his improved shot selection.

Despite playing, on average, 10 fewer minutes this season compared to his 2015-2016 Pistons season, he is putting up career-high numbers in scoring and rebounding. A top three-point shooter, he ranks 12th in three-point percentage, shooting an impressive 48.4 percent from beyond the arc.

As the Celtics third-leading scorer, his shot selection mirrors that of the modern NBA.  This year, like most of the league, he is taking and making more three-pointers. 45 percent of his attempts come from the three-point range, up from last years 35 percent.

Also, Morris is transitioning away from the mid-range shot. Only one-third of his shots now come from the midrange compared to 45 percent last year. His midrange and three-point attempts flip-flopped. This might seem a subtle change but it is a difference which maximizes offensive efficiency and down the road wins more games.

Morris is still an isolation heavy player. He still ranks above Kyrie Irving in isolation possessions per game. Morris will likely struggle to keep up this early success. Catch-and-shoot type shots are the more accurate shot and so far, only 22 percent of all his three-point attempts were assisted on.

When he attempts a catch-and-shoot his three-point percentage increases to 50.9 percent. A small increase, but a helpful indicator of his catch-and-shoot success. Despite his sustained success as an off the dribble threat, if Morris wants to continue his early efficiency look for him to attempt more spot-up three-pointers.

On defense, Morris is also having an above average season by certain measures. While known for his instant offense, Morris has shown the ability to guard All-Star level players. Morris dubbed himself as the “LeBron Stopper” during last years Eastern Conference Finals, serving as the primary Lebron James defender during the playoffs.

Of players who have played more than 5 games and 10 minutes per game, he currently ranks in the top 10 percent of the league in both defensive rating and defensive rebounding percentage. Despite averaging a career-high 2.8 fouls per game, his defensive effort is more noticeable.

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To conclude, Marcus Morris has become the definition of the modern-NBA stretch-big. His early success is in large part due to his improved shot selection. The only downside of his early success is that the Celtics will not be able to pay him next season. Efficient wings are always in demand and in a league where Trevor Ariza makes $15 million a year, look for Morris, as a free agent, to command a high price.

All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats and Cleaningtheglass.com and include the entire league and exclude garbage time.

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