Name: Anthony Jarrad Morrow
Weight: 210 lbs
Birth Date: September 27, 1985 (Age: 25)
Birthplace: Charlotte, North Carolina
Experience: 2 years
Morrow is mostly a one-trick pony on offense, but man, what a trick. Over two years, Morrow has shot a blistering .460 from beyond the arc, making 226 threes in 491 attempts over the past two seasons. He leads all qualified players (handily) in three-point shooting over that time. To illustrate how vast the difference is, the percentage points between #1 (Morrow) and #3 (Steve Nash) is roughly equivalent to the points between #3 (Nash) and #19 (Keyon Dooling). Don Nelson called Morrow “one of the best shooters (he’s) ever coached,” and considering that Don Nelson coached guys like Mitch Richmond, Steve Nash, and Chris Mullin, that’s quite a compliment.
Outside of three-point shooting, Morrow’s an average offensive player at best: he’s not a supremely talented ballhandler, he’s not particularly good in isolation, and he’s not athletic enough to have a “wow” factor in transition. However, it’s worth noting that Morrow was surprisingly adept last year in the post, scoring 1.14 points per possession (placing him 7th in the league). He’s obviously not the 7th best post player in the NBA, and he ranks so high because he does have one very effective move: a back down & spin off the defender into a – you guessed it – fadeaway jumper. He used it very rarely last year – usually while only posting up smaller guards – but it’s a beautiful, effective, Kobe-like weapon in his arsenal.
Morrow has never been lauded for his defense, and while there’s a reason for that, it’s certainly not as simple as “Anthony Morrow can’t defend.” Don Nelson’s system has never exactly preached defense, which is assuredly some of the reason Morrow hasn’t really focused on it. I don’t expect him to morph into Shane Battier, but I do expect his defensive efficiency to rise. Morrow was also an excellent pick-and-roll ballhandler defender – he had a miniscule foul rate and forced an unusually high number of turnovers. When you’re good at defending the pick & roll with questionable frontcourt defenders like Anthony Tolliver, Anthony Randolph (whose defensive ability is mostly in blocking shots from the weak side), Chris Hunter , & a coach who has a run-and-gun offensive system named after him, our efficiency at that spot is not going to go south when you replace them with (slightly) better defenders Brook Lopez, Troy Murphy, and Derrick Favors, a defensive-minded coach in Avery Johnson.
That being said, Morrow still has the propensity to look lost in isolation (he was one of the five worst defenders, minimum 50 possessions, in isolation last year), often simply not having the quickness needed to stay in front of most NBA-caliber shooting guards, or to close out on spot-up shooters. As a whole, he’s at best an average defender and at worse a bad one.
Anthony Morrow, despite having a career 42.1% shooting percentage in four years at Georgia Tech, went undrafted despite being eligible for the 2008 NBA Draft. He’s truly the embodiment of the rags-to-riches success story – I highly suggest reading Ric Bucher’s ESPN New York piece briefly detailing his remarkable life story. It details how he started as a guy wiping the floors with his opponents in high school & then literally wiping the floors of the gym clean, only to become an elite sharpshooter with a $12 million NBA contract.
Anthony Morrow will likely be the starting shooting guard for the Nets this year, and while I know some folks will cry Terrence Williams, I actually think it’s a good thing. Morrow’s premier three-point shooting will provide needed spacing around slasher-creator Devin Harris and offensive post wizard Brook Lopez. If guards are forced to stay with Morrow as he traipses the perimeter, it opens up lanes for Harris to dive into as well as lessens the potential of a double-team down low on Lopez. While he’s fairly limited offensively outside of his jumper, that’s really what the Nets need from the shooting guard position: someone who can shoot the lights out. This spacing will prove to have value beyond his own numbers as a result. After witnessing last year’s team brick three-pointer after three-pointer, it’s hard not to be excited about someone with such a sweet stroke.
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