The Wizards’ trade of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Denver Nuggets for Monte Morris and Will Barton was a good move. The team took a solid role player and swapped him for two guys who are each likely to be at minimum solid role players.
In Morris’ case, they might have even acquired someone who could be good. I know: Morris is small and isn’t a strong defender. I know: that fits the mold of Wizards point guards the past few seasons. But Morris is an excellent shooter and above-average playmaker who was thrust into the starting lineup because of injury and played well.
While I don’t think there’s a lot of room for his production to improve significantly at this point in his career, there’s good reason to think he could be a solid starting PG for the next couple seasons. With salaries of $9.1 million this season, and $9.8 million in 2023-24, he’s a virtual lock to outperform his contract.
Here’s a look at some of the stats I use when evaluating players (box score stats are per 100 team possessions, unless otherwise noted):
- PPA (in PPA, average is 100 and higher is better): 141
- Offensive rating (points produced per 100 individual possessions): 121 (+9.3 relative to league average)
- Usage: 17.5% (average is 20.0%)
- Points: 20.8
- Rebounds: 5.0
- Assists: 7.3
- Steals: 1.2
- Blocks: 0.3
- Turnovers: 1.7
- Fouls: 2.0
- Free throw attempts: 1.9
- efg: 56.4%
- 2pt%: 54.5%
- 3pt%: 39.5%
- FT%: 86.9%
The minuscule turnover numbers are a normal feature for Morris. His assist-to-turnover ratio has been 4.3 or higher in each of the past four seasons. In short, he’s a PG who makes shots, sets up teammates and avoids turnovers. Wizards fans are fairly unfamiliar with someone on the team who does these things.
To the Doppelgänger Machine.
For those unfamiliar, my Statistical Doppelgänger Machine works by comparing a player’s performance across 14 different categories that include age, playing time, pace-neutral box score stats and scores from my PPA metric. All that’s rolled up into a single score that (in theory) provides a list of NBA players since 1977-78 with similar production at a similar age.
While Morris has some fairly close comps, they cover an interesting span of years — from the early 1990s when the NBA moved the three-point line a little closer and long-range attempts and accuracy shot up to the mid twenty-teens.
- Dana Barros, Philadelphia 76ers, 1993-94, age 26 — It took Barros some time, but he eventually figured out how to be effective in the NBA. After a little below average production in his first four seasons, Barros hit his stride with a 130 PPA in this comp season, and followed it up with a career-best 172 at age 27.
- George Hill, Indiana Pacers, 2012-13, age 26 — Hill entered the NBA with the Spurs, where he played his first four season — the last two with a 90 or better PPA. Then San Antonio traded him to Indiana for the pick that became Kawhi Leonard. Hill was good — six straight average or better seasons (this one rated a 146 PPA), and he peaked with a 179 at 28 and a 159 at 30. At age 35, he posted an 84 PPA for the Milwaukee Bucks last season.
- Damon Jones, Miami Heat, 2004-05, age 28 — Jones had a classic Heat kind of career pattern. He played for eight teams over his first six seasons, all of them below average except the last — a 106 PPA with Milwaukee. The Heat signed him, he got in the best shape of his life (no, really) and had his best season (149 PPA). Then he went to Cleveland and cratered.
- Dana Barros, Boston Celtics, 1995-96, age 28 — Following up that career best 172 PPA, Barros slid back to a 110 with a new team. He was hurt the next season (just 24 games for the Celtics at age 29), then played two more above average seasons at age 30 and 31. That age 31 season was his last average or better season, but he was decent for another couple years.
- B.J. Armstrong, Chicago Bulls, 1992-93, age 25 — This is the player comp I think is the closest to what the Wizards can expect. After a couple seasons as a solidly productive backup, Armstrong entered the starting lineup and produced. Playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Armstrong was an efficient and competent guard who shot well. This comp season (117 PPA) started a streak of four straight better-than-average seasons, which culminated with a 138 peak with the Golden State Warriors at age 28.
- Kenny Smith, Houston Rockets, 1993-94, age 28 — Smith had been a productive guard for several seasons, and this age 28 season was actually kind of a down year for him — a 123 PPA sandwiched between 157 years at 27 and 29. After that, he slipped to 98 at 30 and was out of the league at 31. Those out years aren’t much of a concern for the Wizards, unless they choose to re-sign Morris in 2024.
- Seth Curry, Dallas Maverics, 2016-17, age 26 — After bouncing around a bit (four teams in his first three seasons), the Mavericks gave him a home, and he produced. He missed all of the following season with an injury and has been a solid 120ish PPA producer the past several seasons.
- Jason Williams, Miami Heat, 2005-06, age 30 — Williams was starting to decline by the time he got to Miami, but he was still pretty good. He produced eight consecutive average or better seasons — a streak that ended at age 34 (and just barely).
- Steve Blake, Portland Trailblazers, 2008-09. age 28 — Blake should have made his entire career in Portland. After a couple years as a replacement level player in Washington, he went above average (119 PPA) for the first time with Portland at age 25. Then he backslid to below average until he went back to Portland for consecutive average or better seasons (100 and 126). When he hit 29, even the Trailblazers couldn’t help him, but he stuck around as a player until age 35.
- Beno Udrih, Sacramento Kings, 2009-10, age 27 — Udrih had two average or better seasons, and this was the first of them. He was a decent enough player at times. He could shoot and do a little playmaking, though he was a poor defender.
In Morris, the Wizards didn’t get the next great PG. But they did get a solid player who’s likely to be a decent starter over the next couple seasons and could fill a reserve role if they can find someone better. And, because of his relatively small salary, Washington could have the flexibility to make a move that adds some salary in the backcourt.
Who’s next through the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine?
This poll is closed