On Wednesday afternoon, the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Monte Morris from the Detroit Pistons. Morris, and a backup point guard specifically, have long been targets of the Timberwolves.
In this analysis, we'll embark on a statistical deep dive into Morris' performance, unraveling the reasons behind his acquisition and what he brings to the team.
As the eye test would suggest, the Timberwolves struggle immensely without Mike Conley on the floor. They are averaging nearly six points fewer per 100 possessions when he is off the court (118.1 vs 112.8). The hope is that Morris can bridge that gap, and provide some much-needed respite for the 36-year-old Conley.
In 2022-2023, Morris ranked 20th in Offensive LEBRON among on-ball guards at 1.27 (0 is average), sandwiched between Chris Paul (1.49) and Mike Conley (1.08).
Both 3-point shooting and floaters stand out as strengths for Morris, both of which fit perfectly into the Timberwolves scheme.
On the Timberwolves, Morris should be able to get his floater off at will as defenses have to respect the lob threat of Rudy Gobert. Conley has taken advantage of that during his time in Minnesota with his "off-hand" righty floater.
Morris has consistently hovered in the 38-40 percent range from deep throughout his career. In Minnesota, he should have the green light and plenty of opportunity for catch-and-shoot threes, given the Timberwolves' proclivity to drive the ball (9th in the league at ~60 per game).
Morris is also strong in the mid-range, 5th among on-ball guards in 2022-2023 at 50.4 percent. Many Timberwolves players have joked that the mid-range is off limits according to Chris Finch. However, that is at least partly because they don’t have the personnel to justify it, ranking just 23rd in the league at 38.9 percent from mid-range.
Floor General Traits
The shooting strengths are great, but perhaps the biggest reason Tim Connelly acquired Morris is for his savvy ball handling and efficient passing. The offense struggles with turnovers and Morris is similar to Conley in that he takes care of the ball at all costs. He is one of the best on-ball guards in terms of both passing efficiency and turnovers per 75 possessions.
On the defensive end, nothing jumps off the page. Amongst on-ball guards, Morris ranks 16th in Defensive LEBRON at -0.17 (0 is average).
Interestingly, he has a very similar defensive profile to the 6-foot Conley.
His perimeter defense and screen navigation are both slightly above average.
It is easy to see why Tim Connely went after the former Pistons' guard. Morris injects some steady ball handling and a calm demeanor into the game when Conley is off the floor. He has a very similar overall profile to Conley, which will provide the Wolves with consistency throughout the game.
In light of the assets the Wolves gave up, it's difficult to envision this trade as anything other than a success. The coming weeks will reveal if Morris can provide the spark the Timberwolves need to carry them throughout the back half of the season.