Full Breakdown on Markieff Morris’ Fit in Miami’s System

In a pretty eventful free agency for the Miami Heat, they walked away with some enticing headliners for the 2021-2022 roster. Kyle Lowry is the starting point since it’s been the awaited piece for quite some time now, while reigning champion PJ Tucker was the unexpected addition that has people chirping.

But the guy who is going under the radar a bit with Miami’s latest acquisitions is Markieff Morris. After somewhat of an underwhelming role this past season with the Lakers, it feels like there will be much more of a natural fit on this Heat team, as he clearly fits the theme of the team.

So, let’s hop right into his biggest strengths, and how they will be utilized this upcoming season…

Spotting Up from Deep

The first one to note is absolutely zero surprise. When adding some wing depth to the roster, it was obvious that they must be able to stretch the floor next to Adebayo so he can have room to navigate.

As seen above, Morris has quite the resume in terms of shooting from different spots beyond the arc, since he’s not just a corner spacer like PJ Tucker. He’s pretty versatile when discussing the ways he will be used under Erik Spoelstra, but there’s no doubt it’ll involve plenty of popping out to the perimeter off pick and rolls or hand-offs.

In the last clip above, that’s probably the one thing that sets him apart when looking at his shooting from deep. He will not be shooting off the dribble, but he’s capable of creating that extra dribble of separation to get a good look. That one dribble side-step can go a long way, just ask Jae Crowder in the bubble…..

No matter the other points I’m about to make referring to other ways he can be used, we’re always going to come back to the floor spacing, since that will ultimately be what keeps him on the floor for extended stretches.


More of an Inside Presence

I basically talked about every possible small ball four the Heat could get heading into free agency, and I felt like there would be a theme in terms of the player they would be looking for.

Yes, everybody can stretch the floor to a certain degree, but staggering usage up a bit with inside capabilities needed to be a sticking point. And well, Tucker and Morris fit that description in their own unique ways.

The clip above showcases the way he would be used in that sense, and it all starts from the beginning of the possession. In today’s game, you just don’t see many wings locating themselves inside the arc for a deep two off the catch, but Morris finds that area comfortable.

He then uses his body to get to the middle of the floor, giving a quick look to the corner to force the help-side to retreat to the three-point line, before knocking down the easy mid-range jumper. With Miami’s past guys at that position, they weren’t truly able to make an impact in the second level of the half-court.

Tucker definitely won’t be taking jumpers in that spot either, but being able to be inserted into the dunker spot for dump-offs and easy layups will be his way to alter spacing. Morris, on the other hand, won’t be asked to be on the ball a ton, but it’s fair to say he can get to his spots on the floor when posting up or attacking.

Utilization as a Roller

When thinking of the base sets he can be used in, many would probably start with being a pick and pop artist. That refers back to the continued usage as a floor spacer, but I think there’s other ways to mix things up with him.

The play above gives you an idea, since his mobility and size seems like the perfect fit for double drag. It’s simple: he rolls to the basket for a 2 on 1 opportunity with LeBron James and it leads to an easy layup. He doesn’t just have to be a popper, but his rolling can really unlock some things.

As I’ve touched on with Tucker, they’re going to have to pass on some of the responsibilities to the newcomers when discussing dribble hand-offs. Of course Adebayo will still get a fair share of them, even though some may not like that, but allowing Tucker and Morris types to run those actions with Adebayo on the weak-side can really give Miami a bunch of offensive options.

That is exactly where his rolling skill-set comes into play, since a Duncan Robinson pocket pass to Morris allows him to get to that mid-range jumper that I discussed previously, or dish it to Adebayo so he can score off the catch which is a major strength.

It’s definitely going to be something we see more of as we move forward, but the only question is if it will be with the starting group or as an effective reserve. In either lineup, that rolling skill can be utilized due to the fact it’s something the Heat kind of miss at this exact moment.

Above the Break Play-Making

You may be wondering why I’m touching on play-making when discussing Markieff Morris, since that has never been a staple of his game, but there’s some upside from one spot on the floor.

Kyle Lowry will definitely be the guy play-making from the top of the key, which Miami hasn’t seen in a very long time, but that’s the spot Morris can be most effective in the offense.

Looking at the clips above, he’s the perfect player to plug into a horns set, since it bends the defense a bit with Lowry dribble penetration, while the kick-out option is there for Morris. It then means he can be the decision maker as he surveys the floor, which led to a corner triple in the first play above.

In the second clip, instead of him being the main part of the action, it’s occurring off the ball while he has to make the pass. Miami will see plenty of these off-ball screens, so it’s good to see him getting plenty of reps in that department in the past. He drops in the over the top pass and it leads to yet another triple.

With Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo on the roster, we don’t really think of Morris taking any part in play-making duties, but they should definitely sprinkle it in. Put him in his comfort spots at the top, and let everything else flow from there.

Defensive Versatility

After looking up and down the Miami Heat’s roster on paper, it’s pretty obvious that’s enough offensive talk for one article. This team is going to be in your grill defensively, pressuring heavily on-ball, and swarming on the help-side. A bunch of quick, physical, and gritty defenders must be used in that way, and they undoubtedly will.

Another point I made time and time again heading into free agency was that they needed a guy who could size up defensively instead of size down. Trevor Ariza was the perfect plugging piece, since it fixed some of the point of attack problems, but it just led to more exposure on the block.

The Heat already have their big man that can guard the perimeter, so they need a four who can make up for those switches if they occur. And well, Morris can do just that.

He has guarded plenty of centers over the course of his career, which ties back to the point of Miami adding so much versatility on both sides of the ball. We see some of that perimeter defense in the first clip above, but the second clip is much more important.

Seeing him handle big men like that is the perfect person to place next to Adebayo. Yes, we’re constantly looking for the front-court pairing that pushes him in the right direction offensively, but that’s Lowry’s job now. Morris and Tucker are guys who can allow Adebayo to be more of a freelancer defensively and take a little weight off his shoulders, which is probably even more important.

Once again, these pick-ups feel to be a blend of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra’s preferences. The small ball fours who Spo likes to play down the stretch of games, but also Riley types who size up and play physical. The theme of this team is clear, and adding a bunch of players who won’t get bullied in any circumstance creates a very interesting dynamic in Miami.


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