It’s only fitting that several players have gotten a lot of praise for how they’ve stepped up in John Wall’s absence. Bradley Beal performed admirably as the team’s top option, save for Tuesday’s dud against the Warriors. Otto Porter has maintained his efficiency as a bigger part of the team’s offense. Tomas Satoransky is showing the league he’s more than just a competent backup point guard.
One player who hasn’t gotten enough recognition is the same player who keyed Washington’s impressive winter run last season: Markieff Morris.
He isn’t shooting blistering-hot numbers from deep like he did during the team’s 15-2 run last season, but he’s bringing more to the table in other areas. Since January 27, he’s averaging 3.8 assists per game, more than double his average as a Wizard and the third-best mark on the team since John Wall went down.
Washington is letting him facilitate more on the elbows where he can use his height to zip passes to cutters:
He’s also made some cheeky passes as the roll-man to take advantage of the extra attention teams are sending his way:
The good news for Washington is his efficiency hasn’t dropped even though he has the ball in his hands more. His turnover rate is practically identical to what it was before and his true shooting percentage is up, even though he’s struggled with his 3-pointer in recent weeks. He’s been perfect at the free throw line since John Wall went down and he’s been much better at making sharp cuts off-the-ball to create efficient scoring chances.
He’s done some of his best work in small lineups. The Wizards have outscored opponents by 46 points in the 45 minutes he has played at center alongside Satoransky, Beal, Oubre, and Porter. Having that extra look has allowed the Wizards to avoid being predictable even while they’re shorthanded.
When we talk about versatility in basketball, we often focus on how it relates to a player’s position, rather than their role. It’s much easier for players to make the shift to a new position than it is to a completely different functional role, because that requires a wide collection of talents most players don’t possess. Markieff Morris is one of the rare players who can make that kind of an adjustment on the fly and it’s been a critical part of why the team has been able to go on this run.