If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
Despite the Denver Nuggets’ trading Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and Isaiah Hartenstein at the trade deadline, the bench is still a relatively deep unit in terms of guys that have shown the ability to produce at one point or another. They’ve seen reserves start for them at four of the five positions. It would have been five of five, but Nikola Jokic has yet to miss a game this season. Despite that semi-deep bench, leads or deficits head in the wrong direction right now when the starters leave the game.
One thing or one person that has been missing throughout these recent struggles has been Monte Morris. Having missed the last 10 games, 11 after last night, he’s already missed more than he had in any of his first three seasons. Teams run on their stars in the starting lineup, but guys off the bench matter more than you think with Morris being the prime example of those struggles. Just about every member of the team sees their overall rating improve when they share the floor with Morris.
Denver has been dealing with health problems all season long, and Morris was one of the few pieces that were remaining healthy every night. Now, they’re just trying to build big enough leads to give their starters a break because the bench can’t keep them ahead in those minutes. Just what does Morris bring to the group? That’s what we’re looking at today.
*All stats, film and analysis were done prior to the team’s 4/1/2021 game against the LA Clippers.*
Does it Himself
One area of the game that they are desperately missing Morris is his ability to create his own shot. Morris isn’t going to create his shot like Jamal Murray or Jokic, but he can still get points on the board himself. Here, he uses the hesitation dribble to lull Jonas Valanciunas to sleep before bursting to the rim for the layup. Morris can do that with more consistency than any other reserve player. With Morris out, they lack a player that can get a bucket like this with any form of frequency.
This is a play that not just anyone can make, but Morris still made it look relatively easy. Again, Morris has two defenders between he and the rim. He doesn’t panic or rush, and he still has plenty of time on the clock. Morris’ ability to get the right shot without forcing something up just settles the team down. Having a player other than one of the stars that you know is going to make the right play just makes life easier on everyone.
Setting up Others
Who sees this pass? There are few players in the entire NBA that are going to make this pass out to the corner. Morris could have forced up this shot at the rim. It would have been a difficult attempt, but it wasn’t impossible. Instead, Morris sees the final defender crashing towards him from the corner which means someone is open in the corner. Facundo Campazzo and P.J. Dozier could occasionally make this play, but Morris was finding this pass every single time.
This is something that all NBA players need to work on. Staying calm in situations where you have the advantage is the difference between scoring or giving the ball back. Morris catches the ball with Denver up in transition and the defense lagging behind. He’s off-balance, and he easily could have stopped the ball to let everything settle down. Instead, he keeps his eyes up to find Michael Porter Jr. for the layup in the paint.
It’s All Between the Ears on Defense
Think about how smart you have to be to make this play. Morris is in position for the guys at the top of the key. He knows where his assignment is, but he also knows where everyone else is supposed to be on the floor. When Dillon Books drives down towards the baseline, the rest of the defense collapses which leaves Morris responsible for the final two players on his side of the floor. When Porter collapses, that leaves a player open in the corner, but Morris reads it and gets the free steal.
This play is one that we just can’t count on anyone currently coming off the bench to make every time down the floor. Facu doesn’t have the length to get a hand on that ball, and, while Dozier does have that length, he just doesn’t have the technical refinement yet because he’s still a relatively raw player. Morris slides his feet to stay in front of Jeremy Lamb, and he’s strong enough to not get bullied out of the way or commit a foul. Once Lamb commits to the layup, Morris just extends for the swat.
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