The Offensive Role of Markieff Morris Seeing an Immediate Shift
In many ways, the two front-court free agency additions for Miami this off-season can be the true offensive difference makers this year. Both PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris are better suited for the defensive side of the ball, which they’ve shown in the preseason, but releasing some offensive limitations can be huge.
Tucker has done a good job of that to start through offensive physicality on the box and great corner shooting, as we all expected. But in terms of the bench role for Morris, it always felt heading into the season it would all come down to that outside catch and shoot jumper that has been so up and down throughout his career.
But does it actually all come down to that three point shot?
I don’t believe so.
In simple terms, Morris being used inside the arc is the true key to offensive success for him. Screening, posting, and shooting the mid-range jumper.
Looking at the first clip above, this needs to be Morris all of the time in his minutes. Quick screen for Tyler Herro at the top of the key, leading to the defense holding full containment on the ball. Herro hits Morris on the roll, and he doesn’t overthink like he does with that three-point shot.
He just catches and fires. And that’s what they need from him.
Morris is going to be used as the release valve when playing in lineups with mostly bench players. He won’t be the first or second offensive option, but he can be that go-to in the middle of the floor when things begin to break down.
In the second clip above, let’s take a walk through of Morris on this possession: screen and roll down to the box, drifting away from the basket for spacing once Gabe Vincent drives, and finally passing up a good shot for a better shot right inside the free throw line.
That right there is the formula.
Many times in the past with a jumbled up interior, he would’ve sprinted up to that outside wing to provide room at the basket and a potential kick-out, but that needs to fade away little by little.
Now, that doesn’t mean the three-pointer won’t be a part of his game at all, since it’s pretty clear that he’s going to get those shots up, but shifting it away from his primary offensive go-to could be huge for offensive production.
Asked Coach Spo about using Markieff Morris a little more inside the arc than constant outside spot-ups
“He’s just scratching the surface. He’s getting his legs, he’s getting in Miami Heat condition…You can play him in a lot of similar areas that you use Bam.”@5ReasonsSports pic.twitter.com/l0z4eZI4C3
— Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) October 12, 2021
I asked Coach Erik Spoelstra about his effectiveness in that role inside the arc instead of constant spot-up shooting, which he responded, “There’s a lot of upside with Markieff. This is just scratching the surface, he’s getting his legs, he’s getting in Miami Heat condition. He came into camp fit and in good condition, and then there’s our level.”
“He has a lot of different things that he can do,” Spo continued. “You can play him at the elbow. You can actually play him in a lot of similar areas of how you play Bam. Obviously, that really helps your versatility offensively.”
And well, there’s something that can really be taken away from that comment. Yes, Morris can play in many of the same areas as Bam Adebayo, but he should basically be given the Bam role from last season.
Constant elbow touches, a mid-range green light, and the DHO/screen guy for the guards on the perimeter. That role essentially boxed Adebayo in more than they would’ve like, but it was necessary with the supporting cast around him last season.
But that may be exactly what Morris needs. Simplify it down a bit with comfortable spots on the floor, while of course allowing the occasional spot-up three. That’s maximizing the “versatility” and talent on the roster.
Not only is scoring inside the arc an option, but there are plenty of other ways to occupy this space effectively. One way of doing that is something Morris has gone to frequently, which is passing while others develop space.
In no way am I saying to place Morris into a play-making role, since that’s not him, but these bench lineups have really called for that in the preseason. And stuff has actually been generated from it frequently.
His size has really translated to comfort in the post, or more specifically, the high post when talking about his passing ability. In the first clip above, he receives the ball on the baseline in high post position, slowly faces up and feeds Max Strus inside following a bunch of back-screens.
That’s where the versatility adjective comes into play. I believe Coach Spo is confident in placing him in some of those spots throughout the natural flow of the game, basically being a safety net when shots aren’t falling for Herro or when two of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Adebayo are on the sideline.
The second clip above relates back to that middle of the floor scoring/facilitating role. There have been plenty of corner threes that have come out of his free throw spot-up sprays, and more should be coming if this role of his continues.
Morris receives the ball on the roll with a 2 on 1 in front of him while Dewayne Dedmon is sitting in the dunker spot. The pass was too hard as it clanked off the back-board, leading to a turnover, but it’s much more about the opportunities that are there for these guys.
That 2 on 1 combo will be there a ton for Morris and Dedmon, but I believe we begin to see much more Morris-Adebayo minutes in the regular season. Morris is better offensively when he’s playing next to a more athletic big like Adebayo, and it’s clear he will be mixed in with him anyway.
And let me say, that lob wouldn’t end in a turnover with a talent like Adebayo sitting on the block. In fact, they would probably overplay Adebayo and some easy lay-ins would be rewarded to Morris.
Players with the size and skill-set of Morris are usually the ones Spo likes to put a creative spin on in terms of role. And this specific spin will be him moving in instead of moving out.
Many originally believed that Morris being used as a popper was absolutely necessary with some non-shooters in the rotation, but some preseason trends have pointed in the opposite direction.
Tucker will knock down his home-base corner three, Robinson and Strus will continually obtain that catch and shoot heave, and Herro and Lowry will be the on-ball creators who can pull-up when defenders go under the screen.
But after being middle of the pack in mid-range jumpers over the years, it seems like we’re finally going to see a change in Miami. Not just due to the strong inside shooting from Adebayo and Herro in the preseason, but due to that truly being the theme on both the court and on paper.
And Markieff Morris can be the one to truly propel that off the bench.
He can really be a make or break shooter from the outside, but at least when the emphasis is on the “break” on a specific night, there’s an alternative. A pretty great alternative at that.
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