This is the first in our series of player evaluations for each Wizard from the 2016-17 season.
Season in Review by Kevin Haswell
The Washington Wizards exceeded expectations this season, thanks to several players stepping up with big years, including Markieff Morris. He was one of the many bright spots for Washington this season, putting together arguably the best season of his career.
One of the highlights of his season was when he hit the game-winning jump shot on the road to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in March. The referees missed that his foot was out of bounds as he caught the ball, but the Wizards still got credit for the win:
And we can’t forget the moment when Morris blocked his twin brother Marcus Morris, when the Wizards played the Pistons back in December.
The best of all was when Morris confronted Al Horford during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semis after Horford took Morris out of Game 1 on a questionable closeout. The two would go on to exchange words but nothing would come of it. It was awesome to see Morris standing up for his team, and then follow it up with a gutsy performance that nearly helped the Wizards pull off the upset in Boston.
There was never a dull moment with Morris this season, especially after the Wizards dropped Game 2 to the Celtics and Morris was extremely upset with the Wizard’s effort. He spoke about it after the game:
"At the end of the day it's about winning and we didn't care too much about that tonight. We let them back in the game. We've got to regroup and get the next one."
The Morris trade has paid off for the Wizards. They acquired a starting power forward who has shown he can be a key cog in Washington’s effective starting lineup. He is signed through the 2018-19 season, after signing a 4-year, $32 million deal with the Suns back in 2014. He has been worth every dollar for Washington and they should be excited to have him on the roster for at least the next two seasons.
Behind the numbers by Kevin Broom
Markieff Morris is a key player for the Wizards in the sense that he’s part of a starting five that’s one of the league’s best lineups. This season, Morris was below average overall, but with some nice moments and valuable production in January and February. Before the season, I projected Morris to end up with a PPA of 95. He ended up with a 91. In PPA, average is 100 and higher is better. He had a poor playoffs (PPA: 72), which is a reason why the Wizards didn’t reach the conference Finals.
The numbers show Morris has an unexceptional effect on the key factors that cause winning and losing. His offensive efficiency is subpar, but not egregious; his rebounding is below average for a PF, but not terrible; his defense is acceptable, though not exceptional. His production would be helped with better shot selection, fewer turnovers, and fewer fouls.
Basketball-Reference has 72 players identified as PFs with at least 500 minutes this season. Here’s where Morris ranks in key stat categories (per 100 team possessions):
- MPG: 11
- Offensive rating (individual points produced per 100 possessions): 54
- Usage: 25
- eFG%: 52
- 2FG%: 52
- 3FG%: 23
- REB: 50
- AST: 38
- STL: 16
- BLK: 44
- TOV: 48
- PF: 46
- PTS: 26
- PPA: 40
And, here’s a statistical “EKG” of Morris’ performance this season. The orange line is his season average PPA after each game. The blue line is his 10-game average PPA. Reminder: in PPA, average is 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.
Final Thoughts by Jake Whitacre
In an ideal world, Markieff Morris would be in a role similar to the one he flourished in during the Suns’ 48-win season back in 2013-14. When he can go at lesser players coming off the bench, and not be relied upon to be a critical contributor, you can enjoy the benefits of what he offers and not be so concerned with his drawbacks.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an ideal world. This is Washington. As such, Morris is in a role right now where he’s doing a little more than he should. Both the Wizards and Morris would be better off if he had a little more support behind him so he could focus more on where he’s effective.
That said, Morris deserves credit for becoming a more dependable player this season. He had to adjust to a slightly smaller role offensively than what he had in his last days as a Sun and his first days as a Wizard, while playing more minutes. Thankfully, he bought into Scott Brooks’ new system and save for the occasional outburst at refs, didn’t cause too much drama this season.
Next season, he’ll need to do more of the same for the Wizards to take the next step. He’ll need to sacrifice more of his own shots so that Otto Porter can grow as an offensive weapon, and he’ll need to do more thankless work on the defensive end to compensate for the extra energy others are expending on the offensive end. If he can do that, we might just reach that ideal world next season.