After watching both warm-ups and game action on Saturday night, I was reminded most of one singular trait: Anthony Morrow is an amazing shooter of the basketball. In fact, he’s probably one of the top 10, if not top 5, shooters in the entire National Basketball Association. One would assume this is common knowledge (at least to an extent), but before we get any deeper, let’s take a simple look at his shooting numbers.
- Morrow is 427 for 1048 from three-point distance in his career (42.7%) and has never had a season where he shot below 37% from distance.
- He has three seasons with at least 2.6 offensive win shares, based almost totally on his shooting. For comparison, Josh Smith has exactly one season with that total, and 7+ seasons below that number.
- Anthony Morrow has never shot below 87% from the free throw line and his 89.8% career mark would rank him 3rd all-time if he had enough attempts to qualify (and he’ll get there).
Basically, he’s an absolute shooting machine. I’ll assume this from this point forward.
In addition to his shooting prowess, Morrow has something going for him that no one else on the roster really does. He is a shooting guard. Plain and simple. He’s 6’5, 210 lbs. and no one could ever mistake him for any other position. Guys like Devin Harris, Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, and Deshawn Stevenson can (and will) play the shooting guard spot this season, but make no mistake, all of them are playing out-of-position in some way, shape, or form when deployed there. In the “positional revolution” that the league is currently in, the five core spots are certainly being de-emphasized, but there’s something to be said for having a guy pegged into a legitimate role, and Morrow fits that.
Defensively, Morrow is a limited player, but I absolutely feel that his shortcomings are overstated. He has never posted a significantly positive defensive win share total, but it would be a mistake to assume that Morrow is a defensive catastrophe along the lines of Nick Young, etc. His peripheral numbers for the full season in 2011-12 (with New Jersey) were highly respectable, and he’s performed at a decent level so far in limited time with the Hawks holding opponents to 0.91 PPP with him on the court. By no means am I shining light on Morrow’s defense as a “strength”, but consider this. Is the downgrade from Devin Harris or even Lou Williams on that side of the court significant? Are we really to assume that the difference between Stevenson’s defense and Morrow’s defense is actually larger than Morrow’s offensive upgrade over Stevenson?
In the overall sense, Morrow’s numbers also stack up favorably. He has never posted a PER (player efficiency rating) below 12 in any season, and when you compare that to Stevenson (who’s highest number is just over 12), the numbers don’t lie. Part of the issue with the Hawks roster construction is that the three “best” guards are Teague, Williams, and Harris, and the fact remains that none of them are a pure 2-guard. The best wing option on the roster is Kyle Korver, who is basically similar to Morrow offensively with better size, but is significantly bigger, and is best deployed at the small forward spot defensively. There is certainly a ceiling to the number of minutes Morrow should play, but that number is also higher than the 11 he is currently averaging, and he should never get a DNP-CD again as long as Jeff Teague and Lou Williams aren’t playing 40 minutes each.
In short, this is a case to see more of Anthony Morrow and less of Deshawn Stevenson, with a slight downgrade in the amount of minutes given to Devin Harris to boot. Stevenson’s principle value to the Hawks is defensively, so there will be certain match-ups (i.e. Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City etc.) where his defensive match-up will lend itself to significant minutes. The question is in the match-ups with teams like Charlotte, Orlando, Washington, or the Clippers (i.e. the last 2 weeks) and whether it makes sense to deploy Stevenson without a “star” on the opposing wing. There is absolutely no reason to do so, and Anthony Morrow should take those minutes. On the Harris side, he has shown himself, albeit in small minutes, to be playing out of position at the shooting guard spot in Atlanta. There’s no argument that he’s a better player than Teague or Williams right now at the point guard spot, and if you examine Harris purely as a shooting guard in this offense where he’s playing alongside penetrating guards and being asked to be a spot-up shooter, Morrow is simply better at that role.
The jury is out on whether Anthony Morrow is a long-term option as a rotation player for this franchise. I firmly believe he’s an 8th/9th man as a role player with one super-talented skill, and there may only be room for one of the Korver/Morrow combination going forward. That said, for 2012-2013, he’s one of the best nine players on the roster and that means legitimate minutes. I’ll leave with one bit of advice for opposing defenses: Don’t leave him open.