Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Celtics are excited about the acquisition of Marcus Morris and his potential as a swingman/shooter/defender in Brad Stevens’s positionless system. Marcus is the twin brother of the Wizards’ Markieff Morris, who made an impact on the Eastern Conference semifinal series against Boston.
“The trade was unexpected but once [my agent] told me who it was, I mean, how could I be upset about going to the Boston Celtics?” he said. “I’m coming and I’m going to put my hard hat on and I think that’s going to make guys better and that’s going to make me better. I’m ready to compete for a championship.”
It’s sad to see Avery Bradley gone. Boston will miss him, but Marcus Morris is a perfect fit for this Celtics roster.
In lineup projections, several writers designate Morris as a wing. Yes, he predominantly played small forward during his two seasons with Detroit, but I firmly believe Danny Ainge acquired Morris with the intention of playing him as a big. With his skill-set, he deserves to start alongside Isaiah, Hayward, Crowder, and Horford.
The Celtics are crowded on the wing, with Crowder, Hayward, Tatum, and Brown each deserving minutes. Zizic and Baynes are traditional centers, and despite Horford fashioning himself as a power forward, he’s most effective as a floor-spacing, playmaking center. He struggles defending mobile, stretchier bigs.
During his final season with Phoenix, Morris played 70 percent of his minutes at power forward or center. His identical twin brother played considerable minutes at center during the playoffs. It’s laughable to suggest he can’t play down-low or needs to play on the wing.
Everyone pounces on his poor rebounding numbers (4.6 per game). But Morris played over three-quarters of his minutes with Andre Drummond, who grabbed 36.2 percent of available defensive rebounds, the third highest mark in NBA history. His rebounding stats should increase accordingly.
Morris is an elite isolation scorer. Last season, he averaged 1.05 points per possession in isolation situations, ranking in the NBA’s 90th percentile. With the Celtics, he’ll have several spot-up opportunities and act as a release-valve when defenses overload on Isaiah and Hayward.
Nevertheless, there’s a case to be made for Morris coming off the bench. Jaylen Brown has impressed everyone this offseason, and he might win over the coaching staff and nab the fifth starting spot. Morris can act as a scorer/spark-plug off the bench and utilize his elite isolation scoring.
He’s a prideful guy. Even if he’s playing at power forward, out of his “natural” position, he’d probably prefer joining the starting lineup.
Morris was underrated for the past few seasons, and the Celtics are fortunate to have received a player with his talent in return for Bradley. He’s only earning a $5 million salary this season and next, and I fully expect Brad Stevens to unlock his potential. Ainge will look like a genius for acquiring another value contract.
Page 2: A Deeper Look at Avery Bradley’s Defense
Avery Bradley rated 1.7 points per 100 possessions worse than league average defensively in ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM) last season. He has rated somewhat better in the past (minus-1.2 DRPM in 2015-16, plus-0.7 in 2014-15) but never as the kind of elite defender his reputation would suggest.
Bradley also hasn’t made a positive impact lately in terms of the Boston Celtics defending better with him on the court. In June, RPM co-creator Jerry Engelmann posted the results of 2016-17 RAPM — a version of adjusted plus-minus that doesn’t consider anything else but how the team did with a player on and off the court, adjusted for teammates’ opponents. Bradley rated 1.6 points worse than league average per 100 possessions there.
Was Bradley’s defensive RAPM a victim of playing most of his minutes with weak defender Isaiah Thomas? According to NBA.com/Stats, the Celtics did have a slightly better 106.6 defensive rating when Bradley played without Thomas, as compared to 107.9 when they played together. But that discrepancy paled in comparison to the same split for teammate Marcus Smart. Boston gave up only 96.2 points per 100 possessions when Smart played without Thomas, as compared to 111.6 with him. No wonder Smart did have a strong plus-0.5 defensive RPM.
In his latest mailbag, Kevin Pelton examined Avery Bradley’s defensive impact. Based on the eye-test, he’s an elite defender, but the numbers tell a slightly different story.
Pelton explains how Bradley’s defensive real plus-minus got worse over the past three years. The Celtics actually performed better last season when Bradley was off the court. They allowed 110.5 points per 100 possessions when he played, and only 107 when he sat.
When he got snubbed for the all-defensive teams, several prominent players voiced their displeasure. His effort, technique, physicality, and quickness are eye-popping. Upon watching his defensive highlights, it seems foolish to call him an overrated defender.
Regardless of his commitment to the defensive end, he’s still 6’2″. Bradley can exert 150 percent effort, but his height limits the space he can cover and his ability to contest shots. Conversely, if Hayward starts at shooting guard, his defensive value consists of everything Bradley couldn’t do.
At 6’8″, Hayward is a more switchable defender, able to guard 2s, 3s, and 4s. His advanced defensive numbers are solid, and he often guarded the opposing team’s best player. Bradley’s obviously better at defending quicker point guards, but Marcus Smart can replace much of what Bradley did.
The Celtics lost (arguably) their best defender, but they have the pieces to replace him, and the team defense should take a major step forward this season. They struggled at the beginning of last season, but progressively improved and finished the year ranked 13th in defensive rating.
Keith Smith, the most prolific news-breaker of the Celtics blogosphere, had some updates on Boston’s roster.
Time for a roster update.
Guards: Isaiah, Smart, Rozier, Larkin
Wings: Hayward, Crowder, Jaylen, Tatum, Ojeleye, Nader
Bigs: Horford, Morris, Baynes, Zizic, Yabusele, Theis
That’s 16 players for 15 spots. We went through this same exercise last season with James Young and RJ Hunter. There were far too many “should the Celtics keep Hunter or Young” articles during training camp, and that roster spot clearly had a huge impact on the season…
Nader, Larkin, Theis, and Ojeleye will compete for the final spot. The difference between this year and last year: the Celtics aren’t choosing between former first-round picks. We love talking about how valuable these picks are, but don’t consider when they turn into a James Young or RJ Hunter.
It’s not an issue that we have more guaranteed contracts than roster spots. It only means ownership will eat up some additional cash when the player gets cut. We’ve already signed Jabari Bird to a “two-way” contract. The edges of this roster are finally getting smoothed out.
The Rest of the Links:
Boston Herald: NBA heads to Jerusalem
FanRag Sports: Markieff Morris Discusses his Brother’s New Team