Congratulations, Los Angeles Lakers. With the 41st pick in the NBA draft, you are now the proud holder of the rights to one Darius Morris, point guard extraordinaire from the University of Michigan. As a service to Darius' new employers, we at Maize n Brew would like to provide you with a guide to properly employing your new swingman. Now remember, as with any new acquisition, there will be a certain breaking in process. But we're so positive you'll be extremely happy with Darius, we'll let you sign him for the league's rookie maximum salary. See, we're not even asking for a cent more. (Yes, I know. We can't). So, here's a little pre-NBA Scouting report from your friends at Maize n Brew. Let's get on to the manual, shall we?
Darius Morris Stats:
Height: 6'4" - 6'5"
Position: Morris is as pure a point guard as you'll find in the draft this year. He possesses great balance and court vision, which allows him to distribute the ball effectively even in the nastiest of traffic. Critically in a point guard, he doesn't turn the ball over. There were only three games in a 35 game season where Morris turned the ball over more than he distributed it (Twice against Ohio State and once against Wisconsin [road]). In his final game of the year against Duke, Morris led a starling comeback in the second half and ended the game with a 6-1 assist to turnover total. Overall, it's impossible not to see Morris' value at the point. He was fifth in the nation in assists per game, and was the highest rated major conference(e.g., BCS conference) assist man in the country. The next closest was Kendall Marshall at North Carolina, and Morris didn't have half the talent around him that Marshall did (at least according to the recruiting services).
His height is also a great asset at the point position. He's able to provide solid rebounding numbers at the PG spot (witnessed by his triple double against Iowa and 4.0 rbpg average) and is capable of physically overpowering/towering-over the smaller point guards in the league. Because of his height and length, teams began to pressure him at the top of the key with bigger defenders on double teams. The result was a lot of nasty, open dunks and easy lay-ins by Jordan Morgan. The Northwestern game is a pretty good example of this.
Scoring: Morris isn't just a dish and watch player. To the contrary, Morris is also a pure scorer (though he is a passer first). In one year Morris bounced his ppgaverage up 11 points, from 4.0 ppg to 15 ppg. He scored in double figures in 29 games this season. Morris has a quick first step which gets him into the the lane, and has a long wingspan which allows him to extend to the hoop around shot blockers in the lane. He's also developed a great short to midrange game, allowing him to bury the 15 footer almost at will and take full advantage of defenders who play off of him expecting the drive to the lane.
(more on Darius Morris after the jump....)
As mentioned above, Darius has a surprising low post game, which he developed over last summer and this season. Realizing his height advantage, John Beilein and Morris worked on his post game and the results were great. Morris has a nice drop step in the paint and has the vision to find the open man when the defense rotates over to double him. If there's a weakness in his scoring package, it's his long distance game. Morris is not a great three point shooter and the extended NBA line will not be his friend for the first year or so.
Defense: Morris was easily one of the best defenders on Michigan's team in 2010-2011. His length and strength created all kinds of problems for opposing teams. He's definitely a lock down defender who understands his positioning within the system. I think he'll struggle a tad with the strong players in the league as a rookie, but name me a rookie guard in the NBA that doesn't. Within two years he could be an upper level defender as his body matures.
Intangibles: Very coachable kid. Morris had an early season run-in with John Beilein and instead of sulking, Morris re-doubled his efforts to not just be a better player, but a better representative of the team and University. Morris is a natural leader, and even as a sophomore, he seized control of this team. And this is a team with Zack Novak, the youngest repeat Captain ever at Michigan. There's something there. Morris plays smooth, but can also play angry with effectiveness. There's a nasty, nasty, nasty competitive fire burning inside him. He takes the whole, "this is my house" meme seriously. Just ask Kalin Lucas. You want fire like this in a player, and Morris has it in abundance.
Three more things. Morris has the requisite amount of Showtime in his blood. The simply has "it". He can make the alley-opp pass, the behind the back pass, the cross-over to lane, the look off pass to the corner trey. He just has that special razzle-dazzle that makes a point guard exciting to watch. Second, he makes his teammates better. And that's not a platitude. Morris raises the game of everyone around him through energy and hard work. Third, he can make white boys fly. Seriously. All three of these things are encapsulated in the video below
So congratulations, Los Angeles. You've got one hell of point guard. Take care of him for us.
* Here's a link to our other stories involving Darius Morris if you want to get a better feel for his performance over the season.