Denver Nuggets: Monte Morris’ Rapid Rise Wasn’t That Unexpected

Denver Nuggets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Denver Nuggets have found a gem in reserve point guard Monte Morris.  Though a surprise to some, those that have known him expected nothing less.

For Morris and the Denver Nuggets these are the dog days of the NBA season.  March is rough and nowhere is that weight felt more than for the Nuggets reserves.  As coach Michael Malone has settled into a 9-man rotation in preparation for the playoffs, we’ve seen a rise in responsibility for the four that come off the bench.  Mason Plumlee, Morris, Malik Beasley and whoever will take that fourth “big” spot, perhaps Trey Lyles, are getting the minutes.  Morris in particular looks to fill a bigger role as evidenced Sunday night when starter Jamal Murray was unable to return after sustaining an ankle injury.

Morris seems ready and comfortable with a larger role on the Nuggets, something that might seem shocking to some that knew little about Morris coming in to the NBA but for those that have known him, he was always destined for greatness.

Born in Flint, MI on June 27, 1995, Morris attended Flint-Beecher high school where he started all four years and led the team in points, steals and assists for all four years. He was a three-time all-state selection, won two state championships and was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball in 2013.

He was a four-star recruit and was courted by several prominent colleges before selecting the Iowa State Cyclones as his destination.

At Iowa State, as a freshman Morris set the all-time NCAA mark for assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.79, a record he would break his senior season, moving that bar to 5.21.  In his career with the Cyclones, he made the Tournament all four times, reaching the Sweet 16 twice and defeating North Carolina in 2014.  Monte has had an accomplished amateur career but netted only the 51st pick (second round) by the Denver Nuggets in the NBA draft.

The question as to why Morris, with such solid history, fell to the second round can be answered two-fold:

First, at 175 pounds, scouts felt Morris was too slight for bigger, stronger NBA backcourts and that Monte would have to get a lot stronger to carve out meaningful minutes.

Second, Morris’ shooting was said to be a concern.  Now, I’m not an NBA scout and I’m not sure what they are looking for, statistically but Morris shot 47.6% from the field for his college career, including 38.1% from three.

It looks like the first point has been laid to rest with Morris in his second season getting 24.2 minutes per game and showing no signs of defensive weakness or struggles getting to the paint/rim.

The second point has also fallen away as criticism of Morris, he’s one of the Nuggets most consistent shooters and has maintained his assist-to-turnover prowess in the NBA.

What we’ve found in Morris is that guy that had unfounded concerns entering the NBA draft and never let that repress the qualities that make him a great addition to the NBA.  The Nuggets seem fortunate to have found Monte at 51 but if Tim Connelly has taught us anything over the last four years it’s that he and the Nuggets brass know what they are doing.  Credit too to Malone for recognizing and capitalizing on a guy that may seem like a flare-up but was honestly the product of really high basketball IQ and hard work.

You know, a lot like Monte Morris.