What was your initial reaction to seeing that Monte Morris and the Denver Nuggets agreed to a three-year contract extension?
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Surprised. Given the moves the Nuggets have made during this offseason to shore up the point guard position, it didn’t feel like extending Monte Morris was ever in the cards. Still, I’m glad that they did. Morris is the only Nugget to play every single game over the past two seasons, playoffs and all. Morris is the consistent mainstay in a rotation full of volatile expectations, health, and production. Whether Morris will continue to improve his game without Mason Plumlee as a primary pick and roll partner remains to be seen, but the Nuggets made a good bet on it at $9 million per year.
Reid Howard: Pleasantly surprised. Monte is one of the best backup point guards in the NBA and this new deal is a good price and length for a player of his caliber. The confusion was that, with the signing on Facundo Campazzo, I was under the impression that the writing was on the wall for Monte to be traded or lost in free agency next offseason. Regardless, I’m happy for him and the Nuggets despite the apparent logjam at point guard.
Daniel Lewis (@denverstiffs): Very happy. Morris represents what has made the Tim Connelly/Michael Malone Nuggets successful — a great value, late in the draft, that has developed into a really productive player. Morris is a good player, and it’s always a good thing in the NBA to have good players under team control for several years. I’m happy to see him get respect from the organization in the form of a three-year extension.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Happy for Monte and confused about Denver’s direction. He is a great backup point guard who can also play opposite Jamal Murray and help facilitate the offense with either scoring or passing. But now that he looks to be here multiple years into the future, Denver will have to figure out a guard rotation that makes sense with several point guards on the roster who deserve playing time and few defensive options among its guard options.
With the Nuggets signing all three of Morris, Facundo Campazzo, and P.J. Dozier to guaranteed contracts, what’s going on at backup point guard?
Blackburn: It seems like the Nuggets are going to go backup by committee. Murray is penciled into the starting spot and won’t be shifted from that spot anytime soon. Morris, as stated above, has been the mainstay at backup point guard. Denver added Campazzo to the mix and guaranteeing Dozier’s contract certainly makes things a bit more confusing; however, it’s better to have too many capable ball handlers rather than too few. The playoffs saw the Nuggets missing out on Will Barton’s versatile skill set and playmaking ability, and it appears that Denver has found a way to guard against another absence if it happens again.
Howard: I can see the backup point guard minutes being distributed in a variety of different ways. First, they can try playing both Morris and Campazzo together as the second unit backcourt. The obvious concern here is they are both smaller guards, however, I think this can still work against some opposing benches. There’s a lot of potential here with how their offensive play styles can complement each other effectively. Monte seems to play better when he’s not tasked with creating for others as much. Don’t get me wrong, he’s historically great about not turning the ball over, but this also makes him overly passive at times. I believe sharing the court with sparks-plugs such as Campazzo can help Monte.
Another option I can see playing out would be to have Jamal Murray get extended minutes at shooting guard. He would still be the starting point guard, but once one of Monte or Campazzo are subbed in, he can move to the 2 and balance the size if needed. Malone may need to get creative to make it happen, but both Monte and Faccundo should be in the rotation.
Dozier appears to be the odd man out here, as there likely aren’t enough wing minutes to go around when the Nuggets are fully healthy. Due to the condensed season and shortened break between seasons, I still expect P.J. to fill in at point guard, shooting guard, or small forward somewhat frequently. His versatility is key to getting minutes as one of the fringe rotation players on the Nuggets bench.
Lewis: I don’t think Dozier is a point guard — I think of him more as a defensive specialist who can also function as an additional ballhandler in the offense. With that said, I think we’re going to see a lot of “two point guard” rotations with the second unit, and have that rotation play a more up-tempo style of basketball. Morris and Campazzo should complement each other well, with their different styles of play allowing them to play off each other. If they can get stops on defense, those two could help power quick runs with their ability to orchestrate the offense.
Gross: PJ Dozier will have to move off point guard it looks like. Will Barton was never a point guard - more of a swingman between the 2 and the 3 - but had to learn point guard responsibilities in order to make the bench offense function a couple of years ago. Dozier is going the other way - he’ll need to learn to play off ball and develop his shot and his cutting game. Denver is now set up to play multiple point guards on the court, with or without Jokic as the point center. There should be a fascinating ballet of players who can pass and shoot, and all of whom can run pick-and-rolls with their All Star center. But the defensive aspect is confusing, with Denver perhaps opting for some Dozier / Gary Harris / JaMychal Green defensive lineups for a few minutes to get key stops. If the offense is unleashed with all these scoring and passing guards, though, a few key stops should be all they need.
What can the Nuggets expect from Morris on and off the court throughout the duration of his contract extension?
Blackburn: Morris is the ultimate professional. Even when the Nuggets added Campazzo, R.J. Hampton, and Markus Howard to their roster, Morris reached out to those guys, players who could potentially replace him, and welcomed them to the organization with open arms. The entire NBA appears to love Monte Morris, and for good reason. He’s Denver’s NBPA representative and deserves that position. He will likely be a larger part of the Players Association when it’s all said and done. I expect Morris to continue doing what he’s doing off the court while being an excellent backup point guard on the court. He’s good enough to be a starter on occasion, and the Nuggets trust him to handle his business if Murray ever needs a breather. The ultimate safety net.
Howard: On the court they should continue to get high-end backup guard production. Off the court, all signs point to Monte being a good locker room presence that is going to put the teams best interest ahead of his own. He may only be 25 and about to begin his fourth season, but he already brings the coveted intangibles of a well-regarded 10+ year NBA veteran.
Lewis: On the court, I think he’ll continue to improve on his perimeter shot. He’s a willing shooter, but I think he could make the offense more dangerous if he was able to pull up off screens for more 3-pointers. With Campazzo on the roster as well, Morris will have more catch-and-shoot opportunities, which will help balance the floor spacing with those two on the court together. Off the court, I think Morris will continue to grow as a leader on the team. As he becomes more familiar with the Nuggets defensive scheme, he’ll be able to make more crisp rotations and closeouts on defense.
Gross: Morris started in the G League learning how to play off ball, because Jamal Murray was already installed as Denver’s starting point guard and if he wanted minutes with the starters he was going to need to be a catch-and-shoot threat who could work on or off ball. He did that. His three point shot has already gotten better than it was in college but he’ll need to continue to work on that catch and shoot productivity. Taking care of the ball and hitting end-of-quarter key shots will always be where he hangs his hat, though, as well as shepherding the young and new players onto the squad. There will always be a place for him in that regard. Morris takes his leadership role seriously, and the Nuggets are better for it.
Are the Nuggets right to keep Morris in their long term plans given the prioritization of wing-sized players in the NBA today?
Blackburn: It’s unclear whether the Nuggets are going to be able to defend players like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs once again. Jerami Grant was one of the few NBA players to legitimately bother Kawhi in a playoff series. Only he, Ben Simmons, OG Anunoby, and a small group of other big wings can say as much. Once Denver lost Grant, it was clear that Denver wouldn’t be able to replace such a key skill set immediately. They’ve pivoted into a different mold with multiple traditional point guards, traditional power forwards, and the hope that their stars can carry the day. I’m skeptical that this plan will work, but it’s better to have Monte Morris on roster than someone like Torrey Craig, a guy who theoretically could defend the above star wings better than anyone on roster but is in reality a worse player.
Howard: Only time will tell on this one. The current Nuggets front office have had so much success at this point that it may be foolish to doubt their plans. They may be going against the grain and common-thinking of most NBA franchises, but so is the idea of a seven foot tall superstar center that posses point guard caliber playmaking. Unconventional roster construction and talent could very well be the difference that puts them over the top.
Lewis: The Nuggets are doing a good job of keeping talented players that want to play in Denver in Denver. They can’t control what some players do in unrestricted free agency, but when a good player tells them he wants to stay, they did well in helping keep him around for a couple more seasons. Even after the extension kicks in, Morris will still be a good value at $9 million per season. That gives them flexibility to eventually add another wing at some point in the future. Maybe the Nuggets can spark a new revolution of playing three guards under 6’5” alongside two players over 6’10”. Maybe Bol Bol is just that good of a rim protector — we don’t know yet.
Gross: The Nuggets are maximizing the players available to them. Morris was already here, and a good player they could extend. The Nuggets are already trying a unique build around a point center, and no other team can reasonably provide a blueprint. They have a pair of wings that are 6’10 and 7’2 and no other team has to make that work either. If Denver looked at its options and chose smaller guards who can facilitate and score to make that work, so be it. There may come a time where they have to trade some guards to get back some wings but at this point Denver is still stockpiling talent and waiting for the next wave of talent to grow into its full strength. Once Denver knows what MPJ and Bol Bol need to be their best in a roster that features Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray as its lynchpins they can make other choices. And Nuggets fans should get to see those early discoveries unfold this year.