It’s not often that second round picks — especially players selected 51st overall — became impactful NBA players, but that is exactly what Monte Morris became for the Denver Nuggets. Even when all the odds were stacked against him, Morris continued to grind and has since become one of the most reliable back-up point guards in the NBA.
Morris first started with the Nuggets on a two-way contract and spent time in the G-League before earning a spot in Denver’s rotation. After appearing in just three games his rookie season for a total of 25 minutes, Morris put in the work in the offseason and showed out for the Nuggets at summer league, the rest is basically history.
His sophomore season with the Nuggets in 2018-19 was when Morris really burst onto the scene as he played in all 82 regular season games and all 14 playoff games. Morris averaged 10.4 points off the bench that season and shot a scorching 41.4 percent from beyond the arc. This was around the same time Nuggets fans truly started to realize just how Big Game Tae operated as he was constantly making big shot after big shot.
There was never a moment to big for Morris as even in just his second season in the league you could truly tell how special he was going to be. It wasn’t just his play on the court that made Morris so special as it felt like he could run for president one day with how many people knew him around the league.
It wasn’t just that everyone knew who Morris was, but it was how respected he was around the league as well. His play stayed incredibly steady the next two seasons as you always knew what you were going to get with Morris on the court. He is going to run the offense with ease and he is always going to compete his tail off on both sides of the court.
In the midst of Morris’ game counting to grow, he earned himself a three-year contract extension worth $27 million back in December of 2020. Nuggets president of basketball operations at the time Tim Connelly rewarded Morris as Denver’s back up point guard truly earned every penny.
After starting on a two-way contract, Morris earned a big money three-year deal in just two years and that is a testament to all the hard work he put in. Morris’ game was truly put to the test this past season as he was the Nuggets starting point guard all season because Jamal Murray was out recovering from ACL surgery.
Morris did what he always does which is control the offense and even developed a really nice rapport with Nikola Jokic. In the 75 games he played, Morris averaged a career-high 12.6 points, 4.4 assists, and three rebounds per game. Morris did all that while shooting 39.5 percent from beyond the three-point line and committed just one turnover per game.
Coming out of Iowa State, Morris had one of the best assist/turnover ratios in each of his four seasons with the Cyclones and that has carried over into the NBA. Not only can Morris be a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but he also takes care of it and will rarely make a mistake.
This past season also produced one of Morris’ signature moments with the Nuggets as he drained a massive buzzer-beater to beat the Golden State Warriors on he road. The crazy thing was the Nuggets were down by as many as 16-points in that game, but they fought back and found a way to win courtesy of Morris’ buzzer-beater.
MONTE. MORRIS.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 17, 2022
GAME-WINNING BUZZER BEATER pic.twitter.com/D15sxl3U0F
The NBA is certainly a business and it’s tough to lose a player that did so much for the city of Denver like Morris did. Not only was he an exceptional player on the court, but Morris also did a ton for the community off he floor and was even starting to earn the title as “Mr. Nugget” amongst Nuggets fans.
Morris was the epitome of the Nuggets culture and was someone you could always rely on during his five years in Denver. He would always keep it real and was that calm, cool, and collected leader that everyone knew would be there when they needed a play or frankly just someone to talk too.
Not only will the Nuggets miss Morris’ play on the court, but they will miss what he provided in that locker room. Luckily for the Nuggets, they have a talented young point guard in Bones Hyland ready to step up in Morris’ spot next season. Thanks to the example Morris set this past season, Hyland feels ready to fill that void.
Just like with Will Barton, Morris was with the Nuggets when they started to inch back to relevancy in the Western Conference. Morris played a massive role in where the Nuggets are today and that is something that won't be forgotten.
Thank you, Monte Morris.