The Boston Celtics bench has been led by forward Marcus Morris, who is averaging more than 14 points per game and shooting the lights out through seven games.
When Marcus Morris was traded to the Boston Celtics, he immediately knew he was heading to a very different situation than the one he was traded from. As a part of an incredibly deep team with championship aspirations, Morris knew that he would not be starting games, and probably not finishing them, yet he was determined to carve out a role for himself.
The Beantown Bully both frustrated and inspired Celtics fans last season with game-winning heroics and game-killing antics. Mook Morris does not lack confidence; he is a man who is never afraid of the moment, and never afraid to take a shot. To Mook, every look at the basket is a good look, this is what makes him such a polarizing figure in the league; he can just as soon shoot you out of a game as he can shoot you back into one.
Morris coined the moniker Bench With Attitude during Celtics’ Media Day before the season, a prelude to a time where the bench unit would be feared almost as much as the starters; yet when the season started in earnest, and the first unit came out with more of a fizzle than an explosion, it has been the responsibility of the BWA, and Morris, in particular, to keep the Celtics relevant.
Morris has arguably been Boston’s best player during this opening seven-game stretch. The veteran forward is averaging 14.4 points per game on 49 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds a game. He finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds in Boston’s win over Detroit Tuesday.
The Boston offense has been 11.1 points better when Morris is on the floor this season, according to Cleaning the Glass. The Celtics score like a top 10 outfit when Morris plays and grade out as the second worst when he sits. The 6-foot-9 forward acts as a release valve for the Celtics’ second unit when other options in the half court have been exhausted; to that effect, he leads the Boston bench players in usage rate at 20.8 percent.
Brad Stevens has the challenge of fitting all the pieces of this puzzle together as having players that perform their roles as efficiently and effectively as possible helps to bring the championship aspirations into focus. Morris was called upon to change his approach to the game for the good of the team this season, and that challenge has paid dividends.
Morris is shooting a blistering 48.4 percent from behind the arc this season and has made incredible progress modernizing his game by trading as many tough mid-range shots as possible for threes, moving the ball when the shot isn’t there and getting to the line at a career-best rate (.293% FTr). Interestingly, if Marcus Morris retired today, he would finish as the Celtics’ all-time leader in effective field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
If the stats don’t scream Morris’ value and impact on this team, the words of his head coach should.
Earlier, the Houdini team wrote extensively about areas we would like to see Morris improve. Mook has taken note of his critics and worked on the weaknesses in his game, giving him even more value to this Celtics team. Morris, along with the rest of the members of the BWA, proved his worth in Saturday’s game against the Pistons by extending the lead from single to double digits in a serious hurry.
Morris hasn’t just stood out as a member of the bench–he’s outclassing his teammates on the starting line-up as well. In particular, swingmen Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown, have both struggled to start the season. Morris’ incredible play and Hayward’s minutes restriction have meant that Brad Stevens can’t afford to keep Morris on the bench for very long, and with the way he has been playing, the Celtics will be much better for it.