Tag Archive for: Markieff Morris

The Markieff Morris Experiment, Not Actually an Experiment?

As Markieff Morris made his Heat return about a week ago, the role he would play was fairly obvious. Around that time, Caleb Martin just went down which left a glaring hole at the back-up front-court positions, needing to be filled.

That said, the role many had in mind was regular season bench filler, somebody who can give some of the vets like PJ Tucker some games off, and ultimately eat up some minutes across this final stretch of the regular season.

And while it’s only been 3 games that we’ve seen him play since his return, the entire perception on him with this team has shifted completely. Well, for me at least.

Erik Spoelstra has shown all season that he has major flexibility and trust all the way down the roster, but almost all of the surprising lineup adjustments have been with the Heat’s guard depth. Plugging in Gabe Vincent or Max Strus into different spots, or even moving Caleb Martin down to the 4 in most situations.

When I asked Spo about that exact flexibility with Martin, he responded, “He’s the definition of a swiss army knife. You can plug him into a lot of different roles and with different lineups, and he’ll find a way to make it work.”

“He can defend so many different positions,” he continued. “We’ve missed that, his presence on the ball. And then those plays inbetween. Those are winning plays that don’t necessarily show up anywhere, but they’re the hustle plays, the deflections, the extra possessions, the tip-outs, the cuts. All of those different things contribute to winning in a big time way, and it’s great to have him back.”

A lot of the Caleb Martin and Markieff Morris talk all season has been an either/or thing, which has heavily leaned toward Martin with his constant production all season. Yet after getting a long look at the rotation on Friday night against the Thunder, it may be an “and” instead of “or.”

Dewayne Dedmon sitting had a lot to do with him needing some rest in a big way, but that was also Spoelstra getting a look at something that wasn’t a one time thing. You can experiment against a team like the Thunder, and I don’t believe it’ll be an experiment for long.

When looking across the Eastern Conference, there are many match-ups where you can survive with Morris as your back-up big. It gives this team a different dynamic, or better yet a consistent dynamic, since the drop-off between the starting center, Bam Adebayo, and back-up big, Markieff Morris, won’t be too major in terms of offensive operation.

They can continue to switch on the defensive end, and as Spo has mentioned frequently, he can be used in a “Bam-like role.”

But more importantly, Morris is just himself every day of the week.

Consistency in shot making is one of the most closely watched things in the sport of basketball. A game finishes, you may glance at the points scored first, but the next thing your eye lands on is the field goal percentage.

Yet, consistency in shot selection may be more important than consistency in shot making, specifically when talking about role players.

Looking at the clips above, this is where every bucket of Morris against OKC came from essentially. He gives this team a mid-range element that they don’t really have among their big men, except for Adebayo.

PJ Tucker, Caleb Martin, and Dewayne Dedmon all have their biggest strengths, but among those things isn’t a mid-post presence or even a mid-range jumper. Hence, the comparison to Bam’s role comes into play.

I asked Morris about that connection between their games, which he said, “Bam, his offensive game is evolving. I always tell him he’s trying to steal my game from back in the day…I just try to takeover the role, and just try to do the exact same thing. Be aggressive when I have smalls, make plays in the pocket, and just make the game easier for my teammates.”

The final thing he mentioned about being aggressive against smalls is something that Morris has mastered completely, and that’ll be the next torch passing in terms of Bam’s game.

He sees so many reps on that mid-post insertion, which usually is the initial feed before Miami runs their post split, but the main part to mention is what comes after the passing lanes are blocked.

When all of the cutters are blanketed, that’s an immediate signal to Morris to work his defender as low as possible, before turning right into that mid-range fade. That’s his shot, that’s his spot, that’s his game. And the clips above clearly put a stamp on that.

As seen to start this possession, it’s an example of the defense eliminating all options within the post split. On queue, Morris gets into good position, turns, pump-fakes, then lets the shot go. Yes, this one clanked off the rim, but it’s more about the process of good looking possessions and reads.

Now, the Heat ended up getting the rebound, which leads right into my next point.

After the miss, Morris slowly fades all the way out to that corner three for maximum spacing purposes. Tucker flows to his right for a potential DHO, but fakes it instead due to the overplay. As he drives to the basket, why is he able to finish like that at the rim?

Morris’ spacing doesn’t allow his defender to pull down for the tag. Clearly, there’s something with these small ball lineups, and more specifically, the Tucker-Morris combo.

I asked Spo how he feels about this front-court pairing moving forward, which he said, “I’m interested in it, for sure.”

“It felt like there’s space, there’s toughness,” he continued. “The skill-set that Markieff brings really fits this group, and it’s not like we’re reinventing who he’s been, this has been who he’s been his entire career…It’s something we’ve talked about a lot as a staff, and I’m glad that we were pushed into that immediately in the third quarter. There were a lot of positives with that unit.”

When listing those positives specifically, Morris and Tucker being effective together isn’t as much about them being successful themselves. It’s about what it creates for others.

And among those “others,” nobody benefits more from that offensive spacing than Tyler Herro. His driving lanes open up, guard screening becomes more effective which leaves Max Strus slip screens as a key offensive element, and defenses have to make decisions on those corner shooters.

Speaking of those decisions, much of it comes down to the readiness of Tucker and Morris to immediately pull before the close-out comes flying at them quickly. This play above was the finish of an end of quarter Spoelstra tweak, where Herro and Lowry operated from each wing with at least 3 drives, kicks, and resets.

The final one included Lowry sinking that strong-side down a bit, ending with that corner three that we just spoke about.

These examples may be the Thunder and Pistons, but every defense will be asked to make these same decisions. And most teams are going to primarily eliminate that middle of the lane guard dissection from Herro and Lowry, ultimately opening up Morris and Tucker as scorers.

Morris at the five clearly downgrades some size in terms of rebounding, but it allows them to continue that physical switching on the perimeter.

When running a double drag above, no mismatches are able to be drawn, since the size and perimeter off-ball quickness from this switchy front-court roster leaves no advantages. Ended in a Jerami Grant contested pull-up, but much of that has to do with the fact that teams don’t view Morris down low as a mismatch.

His size on paper may say differently, but going at Morris on the block is definitely an offensive choice.


You can probably make the case for about 12 guys on this team to crack the playoff rotation, but the fact of the matter is that it isn’t realistic. But it isn’t crazy to say that all 12 of those guys will probably crack the 9 man rotation at different times.

Dedmon will still be a major part of this team since his back-up big minutes aren’t going anywhere, but when the playoff rotation shrinks even more, and they match up with a team like Chicago or Boston in that second round, I’m pretty comfortable saying that Morris will be the back-up 5.

This week stretch has felt like a lot of tinkering from Spo by placing Morris in different spots, but this is much bigger than an experiment or a Dedmon off day. This is a preview of what will be seen down the line.

And with that different dynamic that Morris provides, specifically offensively, he could make the difference in those 8-10 minutes that Adebayo sits in the post-season.

“We like to hit the pocket pass to be able to have a big to make plays. I fit that spot perfect,” Morris said earlier in the week when I asked him about his mid-range comfort and offensive role. And I would have to agree.

He does fit that spot perfectly, which is exactly why Spo will continue to test the waters with different combos.


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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.

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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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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