For those of you who’ve read me at only PistonPowered, this series we’re kicking off today might be unfamiliar. But last season while writing about the Pistons for MLive.com, I did weekly profiles of NBA Draft prospects to pass the time in what was becoming a boring second half of the season. (Here is the MLive Draft Dreams archive.) Hopefully, the second-annual Draft Dreams will have a similar effect this year — instead of talking about botched mutiny attempts, we can fantasize about how the Pistons will magically fill their frontcourt and point guard needs in the draft since they have a first-round pick and a couple of second rounders this year. These profiles will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
When deciding how to kick off this series, I wanted to go with a player who people would know but one who may not necessarily be a star yet — we’ll leave the Kyrie Irving fantasies for later in the process, when we get closer to the draft.
So who better than Michigan’s Darius Morris? The U-M guard has shown tremendous improvement in his second season. Scary improvement actually. Especially for Michigan fans, who spent half the season bragging about how well Morris was playing, then slowly started having the realization sink in that, ‘Damn … this dude is a legit NBA prospect right now,’ all the while praying he doesn’t leave.
But me? I’m not a U-M basketball fan anymore (and I won’t come back until I see Chris Webber’s number hanging in Ann Arbor again someday). So, I can think of nothing more appropriate than seeing Morris make himself into a first-round prospect the remainder of this season and heading to the league. Sorry Feldman.
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, sophomore point guard from Michigan
Key stats: 15.8 points, 6.8 assists, 3.0 turnovers, 4.0 rebounds per game, shooting 50 percent from the field
Projected: Second round
How would he help the Pistons?
No one would’ve called Morris an NBA prospect a year ago. It’s not that he had a bad freshman season, he just wasn’t spectacular. He was a role-playing freshman on a Michigan team that fell far short of expectations after winning a NCAA tournament game the year before. But his ascension this season has been remarkable, and it shows that he takes working on his game seriously, which is about the most crucial characteristic other than talent when evaluating draft prospects.
Morris has led a Michigan team that has overachieved this season and is threatening to get in the tourney even though most predicted they’d finish near the bottom of the Big Ten. Morris controls the game from the point-guard spot. He’s unselfish, and running a Michigan offense that is reliant on the perimeter game, Morris would be a good addition to a Piston team that also has several players more comfortable shooting from outside rather than creating off the dribble or posting up.
Morris also has excellent size, a key the Pistons should seek in any potential point guard if the team is committed to the idea of the smallish Ben Gordon at shooting guard.
Morris is a high-efficiency shooter at 50 percent for the season. To add a guard to the mix on the Pistons roster who shoots at a high percentage would be a great addition, since the team has its share of low-percentage volume shooters.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
Two key areas that are kind of surprising when it comes to Morris: he doesn’t shoot 3-pointers particularly well (26 percent) playing in an offense that loves guys to jack up 3s, and he doesn’t shoot well from the free throw line (69 percent).
Drafting him also wouldn’t do much to alleviate the perimeter glut, considering no roster move seems imminent, even if one is needed, and the Pistons might still be committed to giving Terrico White, last year’s second round pick, and extended look at the point next season. Morris is not the athlete White is, or even the athlete Rodney Stuckey or Will Bynum are. He is, however, a true point guard and not a scorer who would be an intriguing prospect if he could make the switch.
What are others saying?
From a physical standpoint, Morris has great size and length for the point guard position at 6’4” with a very impressive frame. Always looking to make things happen with the ball in his hands, Morris is capable of overpowering defenders with his solid first step and extremely aggressive mentality, similar to the way Tyreke Evans did at Memphis a few years back. While he may not possess jet-quickness by NBA standards, his size and strength are major assets on both ends of the floor and give him a huge physical advantage at the point guard position.
He still can be a bit turnover prone and sometimes tries to make the spectacular pass instead of the easy one, but it’s clear to see what NBA scouts like in him. He pushes the ball, can attack the basket and is a solid shooter. He’s not a world-class athlete, but he’s quick enough to get to the basket. He’s probably a year away from making some serious draft noise, but more and more scouts think he could be a first-round pick down the road.