Our player preview series for the 2024 Clippers concludes with Marcus Morris, the team’s formerly starting power forward and current pariah.
Weight: 218 pounds
Position: Small forward/Power forward
Years in NBA: 12
Key Stats: 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds per game on 42.6/36.4/78.2 shooting splits across 65 games in 28.1 minutes per game last year.
Contract status: Final year of his 4-year $64M contract with the Clippers, worth $17,116,279 for the 2023-24 season.
Although he started every game for the Clippers last year, the expectation this entire off-season has been that Marcus Morris wouldn’t be on the roster entering training camp. With a sizeable expiring contract, and following an underwhelming season where he had Clipper-career-lows in points, rebounds, and three-point efficiency, Marcus seemed destined to be filler in a trade for a big name.
He was briefly included in the Malcolm Brogdon trade that got nixed, which has led to some cryptic comments, an awkward unfollowing of the Clippers Instagram account, and a mysterious absence from off-season dinners/workouts hosted by Russell Westbrook. For what it’s worth, he did show up for Media Day.
But frankly it’s anyone’s guess as to what role he’ll play on the team. He’s still a veteran presence and leader in the locker room, so barring a lineup change that shifts Kawhi to the 4, there remains a chance that Morris will remain the Clippers’ starting Power Forward.
He’s a year older and a step slower, but Marcus has locked in a very consistent bag of scoring moves. While lacking in efficiency these days, he’s still got utility as a release valve at the end of a botched possession, as someone who can get their shot off over pretty much any defender and remain generally unfazed.
Of course, Marcus’ primary weapon is his long ball. He’s been streaky the last two years, but before that he was leading the league in three-point percentage for most of the season 2020-21, ending up #2 overall, with a ridiculous 47% from deep. Although that was an outlier, he’d breached the 40% mark before and has shown flashes of that brilliance here and there, so it feels like he still has potential to get back to elite levels if he remains healthy.
Morris is also one of the more vocal leaders in the locker room, and with quiet and even-tempered superstars in Kawhi and PG, it’s been kind of a necessity. Now that Russ has seemingly taken over the mantle, perhaps Marcus isn’t needed as much in this role now.
Lastly, Marcus has shown time and again that he can be one of the most very reliable defenders in the NBA—as long as he’s guarding Luka Dončić.
Of course when he’s guarding anyone else, it’s a completely different story. He’s slow-footed and frequently gets beaten by guards that hunt him on switches. In the post he’s physically solid and tough to move, but he’s just not long enough to bother athletic scorers that can just go over him.
Offensively Marcus avoids the paint, or really dribble-drives of any kind, like the plague, and he is never one to push the ball. For a team allergic to paint and transition scoring, his tendencies are a little too redundant.
These days, most of his offense consists of low-percentage middies and the occasional spot-up three. If he can get back to shooting over 38% from deep, it takes a LOT of pressure off of the rest of this game and he can focus on being an enforcer that has the ability to be an emergency bail-out option.
Even for a tweener 4, Morris puts up appalling rebounding numbers. He’s got one of the worst rebounding rates in the league. That being said, there’s a silver lining. As Law Murray once pointed out, the Clippers’ best rebounding lineups actually include Marcus Morris. It’s kind of backwards that the Clippers rebound better as a team when their worst rebounding forward is on the floor, right? Well, if you think about it long enough it starts to make sense: being physical down low opens things up for guys like Terance and Russell to come flying in for the board.
With all of these trade rumors swirling, at least we’ve got some good vibes quotes from Marcus during training camp:
Which is good because the roster is damn near full in its current form. With 9 players that are essentially locks for rotation minutes, we’re left with Nico Batum, Robert Covington, and Marcus Morris competing for that last spot.
Will he join the 4 starters?
Will he get benched for Nico or RoCo?
It’s hard to say at this point. We just don’t know.
But what we DO know is that if he DOES start, it will drive Rob nuts and that’s VERY entertaining to the rest of us.