The beauty of these Boston Celtics is that they are rich enough in talent that, at any given moment, any player could step up and become the team MVP. Still, with the first month of their season coming to an end, it’s safe to say that nobody predicted that forward Marcus Morris would have emerged as such an important piece of the Celtics’ offense.
The Celtics have begun the season 5-2, despite slow starts from the likes of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. In fact, they currently have one of the worst offenses in the league and have had to rely on their elite defense to win games. In retrospect, it’s not an incredibly surprising situation. Many of the Celtics’ gains last season took place with Hayward and Irving sidelined with serious health issues and it was going to take time to reincorporate them into their system. Still, it’s been a disappointing start for fans desperately hoping to see signs that this is a team that could hold its own against the likes of the Golden State Warriors. They are not there yet.
With the Celtics’ margin of victory this slim, Morris’s consistent offense off the bench has kept them afloat. So far, he’s been averaging 14.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. Morris was also a key component of the Celtics’ most impressive win of the season, their last-minute victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, In the 101-95, he scored 21 points, and picked up 10 rebounds, with most of his production coming in the game’s second half.
Marcus Morris occupies a weird in-between space in Boston. He would be a starter on many other teams, but that’s not going to be in the cards on this loaded Celtics team. He doesn’t have a defined role off the bench either. It’s the kind of situation which could easily become untenable, especially for a player like Morris who has been very vocal in the past. This is the same Marcus Morris, after all, who publically attacked the Phoenix Suns for signing him and his brother Markieff and then trading him to the Detroit Pistons.
Morris has seemed to find a home here after the Pistons traded him for Avery Bradley, who was then the Celtics’ longest-tenured player. During the preseason, he gave his fellow over-qualified reserves the BWA (Bench With Attitude) nickname. It’s a testament to head coach Brad Stevens’s system that he has embraced his role as a so-called “starter off the bench” during his time in Boston.
Morris could very well become a starter again, particularly if he continues to play at such a high level. He will enter unrestricted free agency at the end of this season and the rest of the league must certainly be paying attention. A change may come even sooner. Considering Boston’s current luxury tax situation there’s a chance that they might trade away Morris and his $5.4 million salary.
Right now, with much of the team still struggling to find its offensive rhythm, the Celtics would probably prefer to hang on to Morris and the scoring he’s providing off the bench. Morris will cool down at some point, one imagines, but by then the hope is that somebody else will have stepped up. The way this Celtics team is constructed, it’s quite possible that every month will have its own particular hero and, as with Morris’s surprising start to the season, it won’t always be a player that anybody is expecting.